“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Reinvention of Edison Thomas • Middle-grade fiction

The Reinvention of Edison Thomas
Just out! April 2010 Front Street Ages 8 and up
For Eddy Thomas, science is easy.  Figuring out friendship is much harder.
Story:  "Maybe his invention would make him popular, like Mitch.  Eddy hoped not, because he wouldn't like to have so many people around him all the time.  He preferred to be by himself, or maybe with one or two people, like Justin and Kip, or Terry.  Otherwise, with too many people talking, Eddy had too many of those stupid, unwritten social rules to decipher at the same time."  Meet Eddy.  Eddy Thomas copes with the noise and crowds of middle school by reciting the periodic table of elements, memorizing Morse code, and jumping on the trampoline in the gym teacher's office.  His mind stores thousands of facts and the scientific names of animals and plants, but cannot decode the meaning of expressions on faces or the definition of a friend.  When the local school crossing guard is laid off, Eddy can't stop thinking about the dangerous intersection and the possibility that somebody could get hurt there.  Marshaling his talents as a scientist and inventor, he builds a traffic-calming device out of old machines.  Could Eddy's invention help with more than just the safety situation?
Eddy has known Mitch since preschool and Mitch talks to Eddy  more than anyone else at school.  That makes them friends, doesn't it?  Then a new kid invites Eddy to sit with him at lunch, and Eddy begins to take a closer look at how friendship really works.  Eddy discovers that even the mechanics of friendship -- trust, humor, and a willingness to help -- can be learned.
Story behind the story:  Jacqueline Houtman is uniquely positioned to create Eddy's voice and share his perspective in this, her first novel  A science writer, she covers biomedical topics including asthma, cancer, multiple sclerosis and AIDS for a wide range of publications, and holds a Ph.D. in Medical Microbiology and Immunology.  Dr. Houtman says she is "equally comfortable writing for students in Medical School and Middle School, because the writing really isn't that different.  Med students just use bigger words."  The writing she enjoys most is "sciency fiction for kids, where science is integral to the theme and plot but, unlike science fiction, it's all real."

One in 91 children, and one in 58 boys, are affected by autism spectrum disorders.  In telling Eddy's story through his eyes and ears, without ever speaking of autism, Jacqueline Houtman powerfully reveals that Eddy's view is just another way of seeing the world, as unique and reasonable as anyone else's -- and extraordinarily common.

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say.


PLLoggerR said...

The Reinvention of Edison Thomas by Jacqueline Houtman does an excellent job portraying, in a manner similar to a person with Asperger's, the often annoying mannerisms of an incredibly bright, but clueless young man. The portrayal was good, but almost too anoying at the beginning. As the young man begins to learn about himself, others, and his relationship with others the story evens out. The glossary of numbers at the back is a nice touch.

A good book to discuss fitting in, social clues, bullying and a whole plethora of school issues. I give this a 3.5 / 5 on the picnic basket scale.

Peacham Library, Co-Director

Anonymous said...

I thought that Jacqueline Houtman did a very nice job portraying a middle school student with asperger disorder. I really enjoyed the story of Edison Thomas. The only part lacking in the story was a good resolution to the conflicts in the story. This will be a good book to read with students during the time they are involved in their science fair.
I give this book a 4 out of 5 in my picnic basket.

Anonymous said...

This story, although surrounding a boy, Eddy, who has Asperger's, is a great read for anyone. This story was so multi-faceted. Science, bullying, Asperger's, math, and friendship all tied into one great story. Readers who cannot relate to Eddy personally gain a better understanding of others like him, while those readers who can relate to Eddy feel a connection. In addition to being a great read for students, as an educator I feel I have gained a lot after getting into Eddy's head.

4/5 on the Picnic Basket Scale

Pamela Kramer said...

The Reinvention of Edison Thomas is a wonderful book for any child from ten to fifteen. It portrays, at times in a heartbreaking manner, the confusion and isolation a child on the spectrum can face. Bullying and how to respond to it, making friends, and just showing understanding to kids who are different are all themes in the book.

At the same time, the story is interesting and the reader wants to find out how it all ends. Well written and clever, I give this book 4.5.

Heather Hill said...

Pamela Kramer does a nice job of summing up "The Reinvention of Edison Thomas". I enjoyed reading the book and think that students will too. This would be a great read-aloud for a special ed. classroom. I give this book a 4/5.

Heather Hill, Reading Specialist
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA

Lemon the Duck said...

The Reinvention of Edison Thomas by Jacqueline Houtman will keep readers engaged throughout.
The author did a quality job of making Edison believable and accessible. Some of the Edison’s "innocence" socially was not believable throughout, and at times the friendships Edison had with two minor characters were too easy, but these were only minor kinks.
The Edison’s RAM facts are informative and make for great page turns.
Bullying is such an important topic and the author did an amazing job of addressing the issue within an engaging story. On the other side, we see diversity becoming more celebrated; Edison finding his core group of friends is believable and possible.
This book is a great learning tool and just a plain old terrific read for middle grade and up. It has great appeal for boys. I can't wait to reread it!
I rate this book a 5 out of 5.
Laura Backman
Hathaway School

Peaceful Reader said...

The Reinvention of Edison Thomas

This is the story of Eddy who is Edison because of somecrazy idea of a long standing family tradition (he has an uncle, Beckett Thomas). I fell in love with Eddy. He's charming throughout this difficult journey of self-discovery. When the story opens Eddy is competing at Drayton Middle School annual Science Fair. He comes in third and is really mad, disappointed that he won't get the chance to compete in the regional science fair. It is easy to tell from his behavior at the fair that something is a little different about Eddy. He is affected by loud sounds and has a hard time processing events that occur around him. As the Eddy's story unfolds we never do get a full description of what causes his anxieties but we do learn what brings them out. He doesn't like loud sounds, he doesn't understand common euphemisms, his social skills are low and his speech pattern is more robotic than pre-teenager. He is incredibly smart and loves to tinker around with used parts, trying out a variety of inventions.

Many of his good points make him a "geek" at school and because of his social skills he has a difficult time figuring out who his friends really are. Two of the bigger themes in this book are bullying and friendship as Eddy tries to figure out why his old friend Mitch sends him such mixed signals. He does make some real friends who can appreciate all of Eddy's good points while gently guiding him through the few little things that cause him trouble. Almost of the characters were well-written by Houtman except the school principal and the therapist Eddy sees at school. I thought it was ridiculous that the principal didn't realize he was being played and Tiffany, the therapist, didn't have great follow-through with Eddy.

I loved Eddy and was happy to see him begin to understand the true meaning of friendship. I think this would make a great read aloud for a 5th or 6th grade teacher.

5 of out 5 stars

Peaceful Reader said...
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Peaceful Reader said...
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juli said...

After a busy spring and crazy summer I finally finished reading the Reinvention of Edison Thomas. I think this book did a great job showing a character with asperger's and I am glad to see more books being written on the subject. I always strive to create a strong classroom community of teamwork, compassion, empathy and understanding AND having recently had a student with aperger's know that it is not always easy! Having this book in the classroom will certainly be an asset.

4 out 5.
5th grade teacher

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