Eleven-year-old Isaac Sanchez has never belonged anywhere or mattered to anyone. But he’s only a little bitter—like dark chocolate, not like Brussels sprouts. When the mom who abandoned him as a baby comes back and asks for another chance, Isaac struggles to adapt to a whole new life with a whole new family.
Then Isaac receives his father’s old copy of Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica and discovers that he has more in common with the greatest scientist in history than just first names: a father who died before he was born (check), a mother who left him with his grandparents and started another family (check), and a crummy history of being the smallest, most picked-on kid in the neighborhood (check and check). All of the things that made him feel insignificant now convince Isaac that, like Newton, he is destined to become super rich, rock-star famous, and one of the greatest geniuses of all time.
Isaac decides to follow in Newton’s footsteps. He gets pet mice, wears red every day, shuns his new family, tries to spook the neighbors by flying glowing kites after dark, and uses Newton's favorite fruit (apples, of course) for a projectile experiment that goes horribly wrong. He even solves the secret code his dad wrote in the margins of Principia. But his most surprising discovery of all is that he may be able to forgive his mom and care about his sisters, and they might care about him too. When Isaac's scientific pursuits cause a life-threatening accident, he must decide whether his "destiny" is worth the price. Who really wants to turn out like Newton anyway?
DISCOVERING ISAAC is a 42,000-word contemporary middle grade novel that contains sneaky bits of physics, history, and biology. My previous publications include a story in the children’s magazine The Friend (February 2011) and an essay in The Moms’ Club Diaries (Spring Creek Book Company, 2008). I am also the lead author of several scientific papers in some of the nation’s top chemistry journals, which are every bit as riveting as you’d imagine. I currently teach chemistry at Southern Utah University and am a member of SCBWI.
Thank you for your time and your consideration.
Isaac Newton: “For the natural days are truly unequal, though they are commonly considered as equal, and used for a measure of time…”
Isaac Sanchez: Every day has 24 hours, but that doesn't mean they're equal. On some days, it seems like about 24 hours too many.
It all started with baseball.
I hated baseball.
I would’ve rather yanked my own nose hairs out one by one in front of the whole sixth grade while wearing only yesterday’s underwear than play a baseball game. But every year, my grandma made me play. I had no choice. (The worst thing about torture is that it’s not optional.)
So there I was, ten minutes before the first pitch of the season, willing to give up my whole life savings (four dollars) if I could just find my mitt.
I could hear Grandma calling my name from the front door. It was past time to go, and Grandma hated to be late. I dumped out my junk drawer. No mitt. I heard her climbing the stairs as I chucked the shoes from my closet floor. No mitt. She opened the door without knocking and stared down at me as I scooped an armload of dirty clothes and secondhand comic books from underneath my bed. No mitt.
Grandma frowned at the mess I had made.
“No mitt,” I said, holding out my empty hands. I felt a little hope rising in my chest. “We could just skip it.”
“I don’t raise quitters, Isaac. Pretending to lose your mitt won’t get you out of this. Now get in the car.” As I trudged down the stairs, she marched herself up to the attic.
Five minutes later, I was the proud owner of a 30-year-old mitt with my dad’s name magic markered inside. Grandma hates being late so much that she broke her own rule of pretending like my dad never existed.
My dad’s old mitt was three sizes too big and smelled like the pet store where I used to hang out while Grandma was at work, but I thanked her and shut my mouth. She turned on her classical music radio station and we drove away.
I put my forehead on the glass and stared out the window. I pushed my lips together to keep from saying it out loud.
I hate baseball.
I hated the white pants and the heavy helmets. I hated the way the bat almost ripped my arms out of their sockets when I swung and missed. I hated the cold fear that snaked through my body because I was scared of being hit by every single pitch. I hated the fact that I had to special-order my uniform every year because Sports Den didn’t stock extra smalls. I hated that, season after season, the coach looked right at me when he said, “If any of you still need help paying your fees, just call the recreation office.” He might as well have just pointed to me and said, “This is the poor kid on the team. His grandma hasn’t paid yet.”