Bill Nye has made a career of educating young minds about science, with (most famously) his Emmy Award–winning PBS show Bill Nye the Science Guy. Now Nye teams up with the children’s novelist and science journalist Gregory Mone, author of Fish and The Truth About Santa, for a new series, Jack and the Geniuses (Amulet), that offers science-themed mystery adventures for middle grade readers. The series launched in April with Jack and the Geniuses at the Bottom of the World, which introduces 12-year-old Jack and his older foster siblings, Ava and Matt, who are orphans.
But these orphans are geniuses. Ava is fluent in multiple languages and builds robots as a hobby. Matt is a math whiz who adores astronomy. In this first adventure, Jack, Ava, and Matt try to spy on scientist Dr. Hank Witherspoon, and then start working for him in his lab. But when the trio and Hank travel to Antarctica for a science competition, they find that another scientist—and all of her research—has gone missing, and it’s up to them to find her before it’s too late.
Antarctica appealed to the authors as a locale because, as Nye explains, “it’s hard to explore.” And Nye and Mone did not have to look far for inspiration for their characters. “Jack is the every kid,” Nye says. “I always felt like Jack. I didn’t feel like a genius.” According to Mone, Nye also served as a physical model for their lead character, at least in one sense—fashion sense. Jack, like Nye, wears a signature bow tie. Little things like that, Mone adds, really helped the character take shape. “All of a sudden, you’ve got a 12 year old who’s a snazzy dresser and takes his hair seriously.”
The authors were set on having a diverse cast, with a diverse set of skills, in their series. For Jack’s genius foster siblings, Matt and Ava, real life once more served as inspiration.
“I had a girl in my physics class who was so smart, like Ava,” Nye says, to which Mone adds, “The things the kids do in this first book, maybe it seems a little ridiculous, but I’ve talked to kids who’ve done this stuff in real life,” referring to several teen scientists he’s written about, including one kid who built a nuclear reactor in his own bedroom!
Today, 11 a.m.–noon. Bill Nye and Gregory Mone discuss “Real Science, Big Adventure” on the Main Stage.
Today, 12:15–1:15 p.m. Nye and Mone sign Jack and the Geniuses in the Autographing Area.