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The Reinvention of Edison Thomas Hardcover – March 1, 2010
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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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Top customer reviews
While I don't think it's said outright, the descriptions of Eddy's behavior suggest that he likely has Asperger's Syndrome. He admits that reading facial expressions is incredibly difficult for him and sarcasm is usually lost on him. He instinctively wants to take everything at face value, so he can't understand why Mitch could wish ill-will towards him when they've known each other so long. What else can they be except friends? But over the course of the story, Eddy develops new friendships with people who show him what true, healthy friendships should consist of.
This story is geared toward the middle-grade reading age and while it might not be the cup of tea of any reader of that age, I think it will highly appeal to those who love science, trivia, fun facts, that kind of thing. The scenes in this novel are broken up by facts from Eddy's memory, which he cutely refers to as his RAM or Random Access Memory (computer joke /reference). I personally really enjoyed Eddy's sense of humor. Though Eddy says he doesn't "get" sarcasm, he's actually pretty good at self-deprecation!
One of the moments that cracked me up most was when Eddy was working on a history assignment where he was asked to write a biographical essay on an important historical figure. Well, nearly everyone in Eddy's family is named after famous Thomas's and as you might have guessed, Eddy's namesake is none other than the inventor Thomas Edison. While Eddy initially prefers to choose someone else to write about, time crunch concerns cause him to go with the easy pick. As he reads about Edison though, he finds he and his namesake actually had a good bit in common. What unsettles him is Edison's propensity for fires unexpectedly starting around his work. Eddy makes the observation that for a guy who accidentally started so many fires, it's a wonder he was not the inventor of smoke detectors or fire extinguishers!
While I couldn't help but cringe at the bullying traps Eddy unwittingly walks into, I had to cheer when he comes to a point of embracing who he is, quirks and all. It's beautiful when anyone of any age gets to have that moment in life! :-)
Eddy believes that his only friend is Mitch, a boy he has known forever, but when bad things start happening to Eddy and he starts getting in trouble in school, he has to consider that Mitch may be the one behind it. As he tries to come to terms with finding out Mitch is not only not his friend but a bully, he also has to learn to make and trust new friends.
I loved how Houtman wrote Eddy. He could have come off as aloof or like an after school special where you feel pity for him, but you don't. He's just a boy going through the things that most of us do in middle school, albeit from a very different perspective.
Eddy thinks in RAM - random access memory. His brain is filled with random scientific facts that help him process the world around him. For example after a a drop of rain lands on his watch he thinks: "Fact number 212 from the Random Access Memory of Edison Thomas: Petricho, the distinctive smell of rain on dry ground, is caused by plant oils release into the air from clay-based rocks and soil. Conducting his experiments and making his inventions help to calm him and are much simpler than interacting with people.
These random thoughts are throughout the book and this is where book's strength lies - it doesn't talk down to its audience. It assumes that kids are curious and receptive to new information. I'm not the target audience for this book and I don't have children, but I would think this would be a great book to read with a child and have a set of encyclopedias nearby to further investigate all the things that are sure to peak their curiosity.
Reading The Reinvention of Edison Thomas with a child would also be a good way to bring up bullying and how to treat people who may act or look different than ourselves. There are some very positive messages in this book as Eddy learns to trust the right people and work with others towards a common goal.
I was never a strong science student either but this book introduces science in a fun way. The appendix is filled with "not so random numbers" 1.7kg = average weight of an adult male duck-billed platypus, 44 pounds = weight of the largest lobster on record, 73atm = minimum supercritical pressure of carbon dioxide (above 31.1C)
Loved: Very original story that was straight forward and not overly sentimental, also enjoyed his friends Justin, Terry and Kip
Nitpick: I felt it ended rather abrubptly. The story has a satisfying ending but I guess I wanted more detail. Maybe there will be more adventures for Eddy and friends?
Rating: 3.5 out of 4 Probably better for younger readers (it is recomended for ages 9-12) Smart and filled with lessons kids won't even know their learning!
The protagonist learns a great life lesson.
There is social discomfort but no real brutality.
The characters remained true to their basic selves (both the good guys and the bad ones).
The science facts were interwoven and consistently fascinating.
The book never had a trite moment.
BRAVO Jacqueline Hautman, I can't wait to read other works by you!
Most recent customer reviews
'"Eddy sat on the steps outside Drayton Middle School, where the noise from the science fair in the...Read more