The Reinvention of Edison Thomas

The Reinvention of Edison Thomas

4.0 4
by Jacqueline Houtman

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Eddy Thomas can read a college physics book, but he can't read the emotions on the faces of his classmates at Drayton Middle School. He can spend hours tinkering with an invention, but he can't stand more than a few minutes in a noisy crowd, like the crowd at the science fair, which Eddy fails to win. When the local school crossing guard is laid off, Eddy is


Eddy Thomas can read a college physics book, but he can't read the emotions on the faces of his classmates at Drayton Middle School. He can spend hours tinkering with an invention, but he can't stand more than a few minutes in a noisy crowd, like the crowd at the science fair, which Eddy fails to win. When the local school crossing guard is laid off, Eddy is haunted by thoughts of the potentially disastrous consequences and invents a traffic-calming device, using parts he has scavenged from discarded machines. Eddy also discovers new friends, who appreciate his abilities and respect his unique view of the world. They help Eddy realize that his "friend" Mitch is the person behind the progressively more distressing things that happed to Eddy. By trusting his real friends and accepting their help, Eddy uses his talents to help others and rethinks his purely mechanical definition of success in this Tofte/Wright Children's Literature Award winner.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Houtman's debut presents the singular voice of Eddy, who sees the world from a different angle. He attends Drayton Middle School, but prefers disassembling old machines in his basement, gathering scientific facts (which he shares in excerpts from the “Random Access Memory of Edison Thomas”), practicing Morse code, and avoiding loud noises, crowds, and Mitch (a friend-turned-bully). Eddy sees a counselor, who aids him in developing his nearly nonexistent social skills—despite having a head for facts and data, he's incapable of understanding figures of speech—and managing his general anxiety (“He had made a huge logical error. As big as Uluru/Ayers Rock [346 meters high]. No, even bigger”). When the local crossing guard's position is eliminated, Eddy invents a device to make the intersection safe. With help from his classmate Justin, Eddy might just win first place at the regional science fair and make his first true friend. A perceptive look at a complicated mind, the novel is steeped in the world of science (binomial nomenclature appears throughout), and the quirky humor and authentic characters should have wide appeal. Ages 8-up. (Apr.)
From the Publisher

"[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

Children's Literature - Janis Flint-Ferguson
Eddy Thomas is a smart kid, but one who does not read or understand social cues. Eddy has a particular way of doing things and finds himself quite uncomfortable when things do not follow the predictable patterns. He has a penchant for random facts and Latin names for animals. Science is a field he loves, but in waiting until the last minute, he finds that his science project is not going on to the regional competition. In the days following that loss, he becomes friends with one of the middle school classmates who is advancing to the next round. Justin is a bit of a science geek too, and he appreciates Eddy's intellectual gifts. He gives Eddy a place to eat lunch every day and helps Eddy maneuver through the emotional minefield of middle school. Eddy's former childhood friend Mitch is the big man in the middle school, both literally and figuratively. Not only is he popular, he also towers over everyone and often pushes the smaller kids out of his way. Eddy is a special target but believes Mitch is only teasing with him; Justin suggests otherwise. Eddy is an unusual protagonist with a distinct way of viewing the world. Throughout the story, readers get an inside look at Eddy's quirks and eccentricities, as well as a glimpse at how such kids are still more than capable of being a valued part of a school's social milieu. Highly appropriate for middle school readers, there is much in the story that can be discussed and evaluated, including bullying and befriending those who are different. Reviewer: Janis Flint-Ferguson
School Library Journal
Gr 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
Kirkus Reviews
A middle grader with a high-function spectrum disorder finds some real friends in this wry debut. Eddie may be a genius when it comes to scientific knowledge and to repurposing broken appliances, but the best he can do socially is to treat others as distractions with inscrutable motives. Falling in with proudly geeky classmate Justin and Justin's maverick friend Terry (whom Eddie thinks is a boy until Justin sets him straight) leads to several breakthroughs, as both see through his habitual brusqueness and are willing to clue him in on the nuances of social cues. The author has a particularly engaging way of tracking Eddie's thought processes as he struggles to wrest order from a seemingly chaotic world, constructs through trial and error an ingenious homemade device for controlling traffic at a dangerous intersection and interacts sans real comprehension with peers and others. By the end readers will understand why Justin and Terry find Eddie worth knowing, but the way the central characters talk and think about science creates another theme that's just as strong and satisfying. (Fiction. 11-13)

Product Details

Highlights Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
780L (what's this?)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Meet the Author

Jacqueline Houtman holds a Ph.D. in Medical Microbiology and Immunology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She writes about a variety of biomedical topics, including asthma, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and AIDS. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin. This is her first novel.

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Reinvention of Edison Thomas 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
This_Kid_Reviews_Books More than 1 year ago
Eddy is a kid with autism who is super-smart, but has trouble understanding other people. It makes it hard for him to make friends. At first Eddy didn’t want to be associated with the name Thomas Edison (Eddy’s name is Edison Thomas) but after doing a school research project on Edison, Eddy figures out they have a lot in common. Eddy is a genius and can invent all sorts of things from scraps of machines he finds. Eddy enters the school science fair and is sure he will win, but he comes in third. After he was disappointed at the science fair, sticky notes with mean messages like “GEEK” and “NERD” appear on his locker. Someone also put a mean sign on his back during the science fair. Eddy is being bullied and he doesn’t know who to call a friend anymore. Justin, who came in 2nd at the science fair tells Eddy that the boy Eddy thinks of as a friend, Mitch, is the one leaving the mean messages and bullying him. Eddy doesn’t know who to trust and if Mitch is the one being a bully, Eddy wonders if he can have friends. One of the reasons I really like this book is that it is told from the POV of a kid with autism. I thought the character of Eddy was very believable and gave me some information of how a person with autism thinks. I like how the book points out that Eddy is super-smart and shows that just because someone has a “learning disability”, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be geniuses. It also shows how Eddy is very kind and a good person with awesome inventing abilities. I am also glad Eddy finds out who his true friends are. I really like the added RAMs (Random Access Memory [Of Edison Thomas]) that are here and there in the book. They are little facts that pop up here and there to show some of the things Eddy is thinking. I learned some interesting stuff from them (like that platypuses are poisonous). I think books like this one are very important for kids to read. **NOTE - I got a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
MaryWitzl More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading The Reinvention of Edison Thomas and only wish that I'd had books like this to read when I was growing up. I thought Eddy was well depicted as a nerdy, socially awkward kid who nevertheless wants to be liked and respected, and I appreciated his random access memory facts; all my life I've wondered if there was a term to describe the smell of rain on soil, and thanks to Eddy I now know that there is: 'petrichor'. The friends Eddy ends up making were believable as well as the lessons Eddy learns, and the ending was thoroughly satisfying without being trite or preachy. This is a book well worth buying and passing on.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really liked the book. It has a really good lesson of choosing your friends wisely and standing up for yourself. I like how he makes different inventions that help other people, but from scratch, using different pieces every time. I am in middle school and I like to read realistic fiction books so this is a great choice.
Lyric Kebede More than 1 year ago
I wouldnt reccommend this book to anyone. I am a 7th grader reading this book by force of teacher. I dont blame my teacher but i just cant wait to be done with it. If i could give this book stars in negative i would. Just leave it on the shelf!!!!!!