Reading "ITCH" by Simon Mayo has really changed my perspective on how I view science. This book made me itching for more, a marvelous piece of work by Mayo. We follow the story of Itchingham Lofte, "Itch", and his epic adventures revolving around a single rock. When I started this project I was immediately excited when I read the back and seeing that there is an featured augmented reality animation app, the animation was truly fantastic a short snippet of the book, which part... well you're gonna have to read the book to find out.
However when Itch brings the rock to his professor Mr. Watkins, he suggests that they inquire the help of another professor Dr. Flowerdew a chemist; when Dr. Flowerdew runs tests on the rock they find out that it is highly radioactive and Dr.Flowerdew runs out of the school saying that he has a lead container at home. Itch agreed to let Dr. Flowerdew to take it but when Dr. Flowerdew doesn't return it, that's when things get crazy. Itch, Jack, and Chloe are in a race for their lives and a race against time, with the police, secret organizations, and multiple other countries following the three teens every move they only have letter to follow and help them make their decisions. Will Itch, Jack, and Chloe be able to beat the clock before their time runs out, or will the rock fall into the wrong hands?
Itch AUTHOR Q&A
AN INTERVIEW WITH SIMON MAYO
SIMON MAYOis one of Britain’s best-loved and well-known radio DJs. He works for BBC radio, and in 2008 he was recognized as the "radio broadcaster of the year" at the 34th annual Broadcasting Press Guild Awards and the "Speech Broadcaster of the Year" at the Sony Radio Academy Awards. Itch is his first novel, and he’s working on a sequel, Itch Rocks!, scheduled for 2014. Simon lives in England. 1. What gave you the idea for ITCH? A number of things all happening at once! Firstly, my son Joe started to take a real interest in science. Not just a passing interest—a real "let’s talk about quantum mechanics" interest. This was new to us. I thought I’d write him a short story, but it turned into a slightly longer one.
Also, I had just finished a nine year run on a talk show for BBC Radio where we made a point of inviting the world’s top scientists on to explain their ideas. When you have the best teachers, it is impossible to be unmoved by all this stuff! Then I read that someone who collects the periodic table is called an element hunter, and that was that. I was sure someone else must have written the adventures of an element hunter (it seemed such an obvious thing to do). But they hadn’t, so I did! 2. Itchingham Lofte is different from other children his age–his hobby is collecting elements! He doesn’t have a lot of friends and is often teased by his peers. Was it important for you to show your young readers that being different is okay? I didn’t set out with that intention; I just wanted to tell a good story. But I did want to write about an outsider, someone who doesn’t fit the mold of what a 14-year-old boy is "supposed" to be like. The pressure to be the same as everyone else is overpowering for pretty much everyone. Itch is lucky to have Jack and Chloe, though; many outsiders are really just on their own the whole time. Great minds can develop there, but that’s not always a great alternative to friends. 3. Where did your interest in science first begin? Did you have a favorite teacher who was highly influential, like Mr. Watkins? Actually, I never liked science at school. I’m a history and politics man, but when you spend your day researching the great theoretical physicists of the day, it kind of rubs off on you. I think it took me a few decades to realize the beauty and wonder at the heart of science, so I’m playing catch-up here. But this is not a science book. It is an adventure story about a boy who collects the periodic table. 4. The Periodic Table of Elements is almost its own character in the book. Can you explain a little more about the periodic table, and its important history? Well the somewhat baffling lines of boxes, letters, and numbers are everything that there is in the known universe… and unknown universe. You can’t get more important than that! When you look at a chart you can see that it is a bit like the castle that Jude observes, with Hydrogen and Helium being the turrets and the rare earth elements as the moat at the bottom. She doesn’t really get it though! Itch thinks of it more as a map around the known universe.
It was all put together in this form by a Russian chemist called Dmitri Mendeleev in 1869. The elements are listed in order of increasing atomic number—the number of protons in the atomic nucleus (this gets tough quickly). The "period" bit refers to the horizontal rows where there are recurring or "periodic" similarities in some elements. The vertical columns or groups are more important and often the elements in these "families" have very similar properties. In the book where Jacob Alexander is checking his charts and figures he would have found element 126 fits under the Fe, Ru, Os, Hs column (Iron, Ruthenium, Osmium, Hassium).
Of the 118 elements, 92 are found naturally on earth; the rest have to be made in labs, with expensive things like particle accelerators. Chances are your school won’t have one. 5. Element 126–Itch’s discovery–could change the world. Is it possible that more elements could be out there, waiting to be discovered? Yes, absolutely. The Golden Book of Chemistry, which is referred to in the book, came out in 1960 and its table of elements stops at 103 (Lawrencium), but now it stops at 118 (Ununoctium, a temporary and very dull name!).
continues on next page6. The book delves into topics like "Gaia Theory" and "The Island of Stability." How much of the book is factual, and how much is not yet reality but still rooted in scientific principles? Can you talk a little about these ideas?I wanted a story where the magic really exists and can/could one day happen. So yes, it is all rooted in science. Gaia Theory is the idea of James Lovelock, "one of the most original and influential living scientists," to quote the UK’s Astronomer Royal, Martin Rees. Lovelock suggests that the earth should be thought of as one big living thing, not a billion different ones; that the earth is alive and looks after itself and disapproves of much that humans do. I know it sounds crazy, and Itch and Jack think so too when Jacob Alexander explains some of his ideas. But James Lovelock is widely respected now and has changed the way many view the earth.
The island of stability really does exist! Or at least, I didn’t make it up—it has been talked about for many years. All the elements at the top end of the table are fantastically unstable and some have only existed for seconds or fractions of seconds. There are scientists who think that there may be some, as yet undiscovered, elements that will be sufficiently stable and courteous enough to hang around for long enough to be quite useful; element 126 would be one of them.7. Some very dangerous and powerful people come after Itch for element 126. How is Itch an unconventional hero in the book? He’s heroic in as much as he wants to do the right thing and has staggering amounts of courage and determination. He makes a mistake early on in the book and is trying to make amends. I think most heroes are unconventional. Very few real heroes would be considered normal. Who wants to be normal?8. Itch uses his science know-how to get himself and his family out of trouble, and to protect his discovery. Do you hope Itch’s adventures could inspire kids to be more interested in science? I have come to realize how thrilling science is and I wish I had discovered this a long time ago! There is a particular need here in the UK for girls to be more interested in science and take it up as a career. Maybe that’s true for the US as well, but with Chloe and Jack at Itch’s side I hope girls find this journey every bit as thrilling as the boys.9. This is your first novel. After successfully working for years in the radio industry in Britain, what made you decide to write fiction? I am constantly surprised by this! The honest answer is that it had never occurred to me before. It was the peculiar coincidence of the events I described above that led me to take pen to paper (or keyboard to screen, if that works). Once I had the element hunter idea I couldn’t stop for fear someone else would get there first. Mid-book, I watched in horror as Daniel Radcliffe sang the periodic table on a British chat show. This was a calamity! The biggest boy hero of our age and he was reciting the whole list (well, as many as Tom Lehrer’s song listed anyway). Surely someone else would get there first! But they didn’t, so here we are…10. What’s next for Itch in the second book, coming out in 2014?AHA! Well I can promise more bone-crunching action. Itch has become the most protected boy in the world and hopes that his drastic actions in book one have been enough to deal with element 126 once and for all. But the forces unleashed by his discovery are very powerful… I don’t want to spoil it by saying any more!
FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD ITCHINGHAM LOFTE, nicknamed Itch, has an unusual passion: collecting specimens of every element in the periodic table. But when he gets his hands on a suspiciously warm rock made of a new, previously unknown element, things really begin to explode. Soon, a malevolent teacher, an evil corporation, and a top-secret government agency are all after Itch. Can his science know-how keep him one step ahead of everyone...and help him stay alive?Available at bookstores everywhere. | Visit
sterlingpublishing.com/itch for fun downloads!