HAVERHILL — A mix of science and science fiction, "Francesca and the Genie of Science" by Mike Cross is not your typical children's book.
The hero is a young girl named Francesca who doesn't particularly enjoy doing her homework, but her attitude changes after she discovers the Genie of Science living in her family's recently broken-down microwave oven.
The genie magically shrinks the girl down to microscopic size and then takes her on a journey through the wonders of science.
"She sees bacteria growing everywhere, multiplying and dividing, and then they (the girl and genie) shrink down in size even more to explore the structure of atoms," he said. "She's amazed to learn that atoms are mostly empty space."
Francesca continues her journey by taking a ride on a wave of light, and at this point she gets so excited she tells the genie she wants to make her own science discoveries. He tells her to make that happen, she will have to study hard.
Francesca then wakes up and realizes it was all a dream
Cross, a professor at Northern Essex Community College, wrote the book as a way to teach science in an unusual manner. He also designed it to hold the interest of parents who enjoy reading to their children, and for children to read on their own.
"There's a new trend in children's books that are also supposed to be interesting to their parents," said Cross, who teaches chemistry at NECC.
He said he injected humor into his story so kids and adults can get a laugh or two.
"It's like a Dr. Seuss book, with illustrations by James Goodwin, a former student of mine who is a budding illustrator and writer," Cross said.
The book was recently released and is steadily gaining an audience.
A resident of Atkinson, New Hampshire, Cross said the idea for the book resulted from his experience in reading stories to his own children.
"I have three children and I’ve always loved reading to them,” he said. “After reading ‘Fox in Socks’ (the Dr. Seuss book of tongue-tanglers) the millionth time to my son, I thought of how much fun it would be for me to write a children’s book of my own.”
Cross got the idea to use a microwave from an experience he had as a boy.
"My parents wanted to toss out a broken microwave oven, but I convinced them to let me keep it in my room," he said. "I used it to store my treasures, such as my Pez collection and other things I liked to collect, such as rocks."
His rhymed 24-page story is intended to entertain both children and their parents. The book, which he published through Kindle Direct Publishing, is available online. Signed copies will be sold during NECC’s annual homecoming day on Oct. 5.
Cross said all proceeds from “Francesca and the Genie of Science” will benefit the NECC Fund, which provides critical support for scholarships and academic programs on campus.
"I’m extremely grateful for the NECC Fund,” Cross said of the decision to handle proceeds in that way. “Because of these funds, I’ve been able to purchase the supplies that I needed to work on projects that have really helped my students. I felt that donating the proceeds of the book to the NECC Fund would be a good way to give back."
The possibility of future publications is not out of the question, Cross said. He's now working on his second book – a futuristic science fiction novel for young adults and adults.
Cross holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Utah. He teaches courses in chemistry and forensic science at Northern Essex and is a member of the college's speakers bureau.
For more information, visit www.necc.mass.edu.