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The Reinvention of Edison Thomas Hardcover – March 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5–8—Eddy is distraught when his entry in the science fair doesn't win. When his disappointment, coupled with the gymnasium hubbub, peaks, he squats on the floor, covers his ears, rocks, and chants chemical-compound names to himself. Eddy's sensitive nerves act like antennae, soaking up anxieties that cause him to recoil. The boy has high-functioning Asperger's syndrome and his intolerance of noise, and of other students' inadequate entries, is real—sadly, as real as the people who avoid him. Former playmates have grown up and turned into mean adolescents. At the same time, Eddy overlooks students who try to befriend him, because he is unable to understand social cues. When the school's crossing guard is let go, the boy obsesses over every imaginable calamity that could happen to children in the street. He loves the structure of science and tinkers endlessly with recycled gizmos and wires, and, following his counselor's advice, puts his worry to work inventing a traffic-signal device. It's curious to walk with a mind that works differently, where channels are isolated, fraught, and amplified, but readers will get a chance to do just that with this protagonist. Unfortunately the secondary characters are shallow and unconvincing. Also, the clever insertion of Latin scientific names and other facts from Eddy's bank of "random access memory" illustrates his extreme intelligence and will make the title appealing to science fans, but for average readers such detail is overwhelming and distracting.—Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY
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"[A] wry debut. . . . The author has a particularly engaging way of tracking Eddy's thought processes as he struggles to wrest order from a seemingly chaotic world." --Kirkus Reviews

"A perceptive look at a complicated mind. . . . The quirky humor and authentic characters should have wide appeal." --Publishers Weekly

* "Move over, Joey Pigza! Here comes another exceptional spokesman for people with learning disabilities. . . . Because Eddy is such an endearing character who clearly explains his thinking and actions, this book deserves a place on every elementary and mddle school shelf. It should be read not only by kids who go to school with an Eddy, but by teachers who teach an Eddy." --Library Media Connection, starred review

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 15 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 10
  • Lexile Measure: 780L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press (March 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590787080
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590787083
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,003,480 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jacqueline Houtman spent way too many years learning to be a scientist (27, if you count kindergarten). The best part of all that school is that some people, especially her parents, now call her Dr. Houtman. In the rare moments she did not spend in the lab, she did theater to feed the rest of her brain. Then she came to her senses and started over as a freelance science writer and editor. She has written for physicians, scientists, and the guy down the street. She is equally comfortable writing for students in Medical School and Middle School. She most enjoys writing "sciency fiction" for kids, where real science is integral to the story.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Tova Suslovich on February 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"The Reinvention of Edison Thomas" puts you inside the mind of a boy with an autism spectrum disorder as he navigates his way through the drama of middle school life. It is an exciting book built around a great plot, and I really enjoyed reading it! It also broaches important topics including school bullies, classmates with differences such as autism or sensory processing disorders, acceptance, and understanding.

Although I don't think Eddy was ever "diagnosed" in the book, he seems to have an autism spectrum disorder along with sensory processing disorder. I was very impressed with the author's portrayal, in kid-friendly terms, of a child with his issues, and at the way she made me identify with Eddy. I was excited with him, upset with him, nervous with him, and holding my breath for him; I felt like I
understood the way he thinks and why some everyday things are so difficult for him. This is not only an impressive feat, but a really important one in a world where it is estimated that 1 in 110 children are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

After reading this book, children will better understand the "odd" child on the block who covers his ears when the fire drill sounds, becomes upset when the schedule is changed, and takes jokes literally. They will also hopefully understand that being friends with the "odd" kid can have its own unique advantages. And adults will understand how the simple gestures and acceptance of an adult can make a huge difference in helping someone like Eddy make it through a day in middle school.

This book is a must read for children and adults alike in order to foster an understanding and acceptance of classmates and neighbors who are "different" but still the same.

--Tova Suslovich, OTR/L
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E. Kanell on February 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The kid in me was fully present as I read THE REINVENTON OF EDISON THOMAS. Some things you never forget -- being targeted for being smart or discovering that "all the other kids" are aware of some kind of culture that doesn't match yours. So as I read, I cheered for every discovery that Eddy made toward having his own friends and being liked for who he is. I'm going to need a lot of copies of this book, to give to the "different" kids in my life, but also to the adults who still remember and who will love this well-told tale, too.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By GreenBeanTeenQueen on June 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Although it's never mentioned in the book, I would guess that Eddy would be a student who is somewhere along the autism spectrum. He has difficulties deciphering social clues, he doesn't like loud noises or crowds, and he is very smart when it comes to science and know lots of random facts in various scientific subjects. I thought Ms. Houtman did a great job making the reader understand what it was like for Eddy-why he didn't like crowds, how some things were more difficult to process.

There is a lot of scientific information as well and there were parts of it I found distracting. Eddy mentions the Latin names of animals, food, etc. and it was somewhat jarring at first. There's also little breaks in the story that include various scientific facts that were somewhat related to the happenings in the book, but served more as a quick fact and something interesting to learn.

Because of all that, I think the book may have a limited audience. As I was reading, I wasn't really sure what tween or young teen reader I would give this book to. But there's a reader for every book. While the audience for this one may be small, I met a couple of young teens during my school visits last week who said they love science and I think they would enjoy this book.

I would be interested to see how a student like Eddy, who sometimes has trouble with abstract concepts, would handle this book. Because I felt the author did a great job with Eddy and explaining things, I think this might be a rare book that readers on the autism spectrum that often have trouble with books being too abstract would have an easier time with.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ulyyf on May 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
There are more books every day, it seems like, that try to write from inside the viewpoint of an autistic kid.

I am actually on the spectrum, so I have a special interest in these books now and again, and read them with an eye to see if they do anything *wrong*.

The good: The bullying, and the misunderstanding about it, strikes me (sadly) as very realistic. The friendships somewhat less so, but I had a very unhappy school experience, I might be too cynical.

The sensory issues, I've been there, I can see that, no problems here.

I was a little concerned that while Eddy clearly *does* have a diagnosis (although it's not mentioned in the book) and at least one teacher (the gym teacher) is clearly understanding of him, the other teachers tend to act in a way that puts him at a loss, and then effectively blame him for it. However, this is a world in which kindergarten teachers can lead their class in "voting out" another student and not lose their jobs, so that's probably accurate too.

The story itself was interesting and compelling, and gracefully shows the lie that autistics lack empathy. Not understanding what other people are feeling (or why they feel that way) is not at all the same as not CARING what they feel or what happens to them.

The not so good: Eddy's voice is a little... well, stereotyped. I spend a lot of time reading autistic blogs, and I've never once seen one or met somebody online who couldn't use contractions. We're not Data on the Enterprise here :)

And while autistics do tend to have trouble with non-literal speech, that doesn't make us all Amelia Bedelia either, not just misunderstanding basic idioms but also consistently choosing the wrong literal meaning when two are presented.
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