New children's book explores Lake Mohawk

| 14 Dec 2016 | 03:35

By Meghan Byers
– When Sparta resident Christopher Sorensen discovered Lake Mohawk's past, he couldn't stop thinking about what secrets it might hold. In the 1920s, the lake was purposely created by flooding a meadow that had once been home to a farming community. Sorensen found himself imagining a town hidden far beneath the dark water.
"We live right on the lake here," said Sorensen. "Every morning I sit with my coffee and look out at the lake, and the idea came to me and wouldn't go away. It was persistent."
So persistent, in fact, that Sorensen wrote a book about it. The Mad Scientists of New Jersey is a middle-grade chapter book following the adventures of Eddie Edison, who discovers that he is the last of a line of Mad Scientists brought to near-extinction by an evil genius. When Eddie's father is abducted, he teams up with his friends to embark on a rescue mission and discover what it means to be a Mad Scientist, exploring Lake Mohawk and other familiar Sparta locations along the way.
Sorensen is no stranger to storytelling: he has written numerous plays for both stage and screen. He's also recorded over 200 audiobook titles, including the popular Young Adult series by Margaret Peterson Haddix, The Missing – and he plans to record the audiobook for Mad Scientists as well.
Although The Mad Scientists of New Jersey was conceived as a screenplay, the story soon proved too expansive for the medium – in fact, there are two more books already in the works, set to complete the trilogy.
"I know every plot point going forward," said Sorensen. "The idea was out there and it was coming quickly, and I just had to transcribe it as fast as I could."
Originally from Illinois, Sorensen has lived in Sparta with his wife for the past six years, and the town has captured his imagination. "The whole story was wrapped up in the lake," he said. "Moving it anywhere else didn't make any sense." Sorensen spent a significant amount of time researching the connections between Thomas Edison and Sussex County for the Mad Scientists series, exploring ruins and making frequent visits to Edison's labs. "I've got a year-long pass," he said.
This is his first time writing something specifically for children, a role that he's found refreshing. "There's so much curiosity in all the kid characters. So much discovery... It's a more optimistic and hopeful view on the world."
Sorensen drew inspiration partly from stories he grew up reading and watching as a child. "I'm really just writing for myself when I was that age," he said. "It's packed with all the stuff I loved – Willy Wonka, Doctor Who, Star Wars."
He hopes that his book will inspire children as well, and encourage them to keep being curious. "I would love for someone to read this and then want to read something else, or write something, or invent something... It's really about friendship and curiosity, and how important they both are."
"I had a blast writing it," Sorensen added. "I hope that comes through."
Volume 1 of The Mad Scientists of New Jersey is available for purchase at Shelter, Sparta Books, and online at There will be a release party at Sparta Books on Wednesday the 21st, beginning at 6 PM.