From School Library Journal
Grade 6–8—Thirteen-year-old Leon Noside (Edison spelled backwards) Harris has spent a lifetime hating the middle name his father gave him as an insult to Thomas Edison. Smart-mouthed and gifted, he uses his creative resources—a talent he inherited from parents who spend hours concocting their own inventions whether in the garage or the kitchen—to make an avant-garde sex-education video that tells kids that masturbation is normal. Leon is suspended, and the students stage a near riot, complete with "Free Leon Harris" signs. This isn't the first time that Mrs. Smollet, the program director for the gifted pool, has had negative encounters with her students, but it is the first time that Leon is a hero at school. The administration is challenged to sort out the real problem: Is it Leon, or Mrs. Smollet? This funny, fast-paced novel is filled with characters who epitomize the middle school experience, and it presents a lesson or two about free speech as well.—Pat Scales, formerly at South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, Greenville
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Selzer's zany, edgy debut thumbs its nose at censorship and prudishness as its eighth-grade hero tries to make a "frank, honest, and artistic sex-ed video" for a peer-education project. Leon wants to avoid rehashing the staid diagrams and dramatizations typical of the genre. Inspired by his worldly friend and crush, Anna, who introduces him to avant-garde cinema, he creates a nonsensical pastiche of Great Masters nudes, symbolic images, and narrated sonnets about body changes and "whacking off." His creative triumph, followed by his suspension and the ensuing uproar, unfolds in a comic, first-person narrative, laden with sarcasm, occasional cussing ("bullshit"), and mostly abstract references to sex. Characters are over-the-top in this slapstick parable, and it all comes to a pointed end (lots of people see and admire the film, and a teacher with a religious agenda is ousted). Still, many creative young readers--perhaps especially those who, like Leon, identify with "miscreant kids who just happen to read books from the adult section in the library"--will appreciate the plot's outrageousness and applaud Leon's commitment to his quirky vision. Jennifer MattsonCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved