Discovering the Wonder in S.E.M. Ishida’s Nick Newton

Excited to have S.E.M. Ishida on the blog today talking about her wonderfully inventive, middle-grade steampunk series about a boy named Nick Newton.

Welcome, S.E.M.! For those unfamiliar, please tell us about Nick and his story.

Nick Newton Is Not a Genius and its sequel, Nick Newton: The Highest Bidder, are both speculative fiction middle grade books.

When you live with a family of geniuses, a normal day involves ancient robots, flying baby carriages, and mysterious millionaires. All before lunchtime. Meet Nick Newton, a merely average boy from the country of Thauma. Nick’s not brilliant like his mom and dad or a child prodigy like his sister, but he won’t let that stop him from uncovering the mysteries of a clockwork factory or revealing a war hero’s greatest secret. With help from two new friends and his butler named Jude, Nick embarks on an adventure that will change his life forever.

Nick’s mechanical friend, Plink.

In all of the story, do you have a favorite line?

“Always, always, always ask your mother before borrowing her welding torch.”

That’s an awesome line! Definitely solid advice. ;)

So what’s the story behind this story, what inspired you?

As a child, I watched cartoons like Dexter’s Laboratory and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. When I got older, I read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. While I can enjoy stories with genius protagonists, I’m not a genius myself, and, thankfully, being a genius isn’t a prerequisite for fulfillment and making an impact on the world around you. Thus, I decided to write a “reverse boy genius” story in which the protagonist comes from a family of geniuses, but he is “average.”

Nick is such a fun character, and the world certainly needs more stories with everyday kids doing extraordinary things. More heart. More grit. It’s one of the reasons I love your series.

Tell us about the research that went into this story, did you venture into any new areas or topics?

I’ve had an interest in science since childhood, but I still have so much more I want to learn about technology. Although the technology in the story is fantastical, technology is a field that continues to challenge and inspire me.

The ever changing landscape of technology is really something. In the process of writing this story, what would you say is the most interesting discovery you made?

I originally sent a shorter version of Nick Newton to the publisher and pitched it as an early chapter book for younger readers. The editor suggested making it longer and for an older audience, which I did. I think seeing Nick Newton as a middle grade book helped me realize how much I enjoy middle grade. Although I’m exploring writing in other genres and for other ages, I also plan to continue writing middle grade stories.

Any Easter eggs readers should keep an eye out for?

The winged toilet in chapter twenty might seem totally random, but it comes from my childhood memories of visiting the electronics store and looking at the computers. My favorite screensaver featured flying toilets flapping their wings across the monitor. It was delightfully bizarre.

So that’s where the winged toilet idea came from!

Any other behind-the-scenes information you didn’t already mention that you can share with us? :)

I didn’t meet my illustrator, Dana Thompson, until after the completion of the book, but I think his art style and the finished illustrations fit the story so well! The illustrations for Nick Newton demonstrate the skill of the illustrator and also the importance of having a publisher and editor with the right understanding of the heart of your book. With this understanding, they can find the right illustrator and design the book in a way that complements your story.

Nick Newton Is Not a Genius is available from BJU Press, or on Amazon. Don’t forget to check out the book trailer below!

I’ve really enjoyed learning more about your Nick Newton series. Thank you for taking time to give us a backstage tour, S.E.M.!

About S.E.M. Ishida

Sarah Ishida enjoys good stories in a variety of forms, including books, graphic novels, and video games. With a Master of Science in technical communication, she is a technical communicator for a multinational technology company. Besides writing, she also likes to draw, sew, and collect toys.

You can connect with her at her website, or on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.



*** View past features here. ***

Keagan’s Review of “The Giver” by Lois Lowry

My twelve-year-old son wrote this for his homeschool book club, and gave me permission to share it.

The Giver is a science fiction book written by Lois Lowry. It’s intended for middle-grade readers. The story’s setting is a future version of Earth where there’s no starvation, but the government strictly controls everything.

Jonas is a typical boy about to turn twelve. He is part of a community that does not know much emotional pain. But when the Giver selects him at the ceremony of twelves to be the new Receiver of Memory, a job held in high honor, Jonas learns that there will be more pain and suffering throughout his training than he has ever experienced.

What I like about the story is that there is no starvation, everyone enjoys their job, and the weather is controlled. However, there’s no snow and the government controls everything, including killing people who don’t fit in with the genetic standard.

The Giver had some emotionally intense moments, but overall, I really enjoyed the story and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys stories about determination and the preservation of life.

About The Giver

The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. Lois Lowry has written three companion novels to The Giver, including Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

About Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry is known for her versatility and invention as a writer. She was born in Hawaii and grew up in New York, Pennsylvania, and Japan. After studying at Brown University, she married, started a family, and turned her attention to writing. She is the author of more than forty books for young adults, including the popular Anastasia Krupnik series. She has received countless honors, among them the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the California Young Reader’s Medal, and the Mark Twain Award. She received Newbery Medals for two of her novels, NUMBER THE STARS and THE GIVER. Her first novel, A SUMMER TO DIE, was awarded the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award. Several books have been adapted to film and stage, and THE GIVER has become an opera. Ms. Lowry now divides her time between Maine and Florida. To learn more about Lois Lowry, see her website at

Moonbeam Award

Yesterday, Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards announced the medalists in their 2019 contest, and Snow Globe Travelers was awarded the silver medal in the Pre-Teen Fiction Ebook category!

I’m humbled and overwhelmed by gratitude. There’s so many thing swirling around in my head, but words seem impossible just now.

None of this would be possible without God and all the people who helped and encouraged me along the way.

Thank you! And congratulations to all the medalists!!

The awards ceremony will take place in Traverse City, Michigan on November 9th at the Traverse City Children’s Book Festival.