The Reinvention of Edison Thomas - Jacqueline Houtman

Eddy's a science geek and has problems communicating with others. The combination gives the class bully, who pretends to be Eddy's friend, plenty of ammunition. Eddy Thomas can read a college physics book, but he can't read the emotions on the faces of his classmates. 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. By trusting his real friends, Eddy uses his talents to help others and rethinks his purely mechanical definition of success.




Middle grader Eddy Thomas is a science geek and inventor. He likes to dumpster dive for spare parts to make these inventions. His favorite band is They Might Be Giants because their lyrics incorporate actual science. He doesn't like people touching him and he hates loud noises. He recites the Periodic Table of Elements whenever he feels himself getting scared or anxious about anything. Some might call the kid "quirky". His uniqueness ends up making him a target for a lot of bullying. Surprisingly, the bulk of the tormenting comes from Mitch, who was once good friends with Eddy when they were just a few years old. But as they got older, Mitch seemed to put more value on being considered popular than a good friend. Strange thing is, everyone sees Mitch's behavior towards Eddy for what it is except Eddy himself. 


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!


"Ms. Johnson is a real stickler for showing work.

"I know, but I showed all the work I did," protested Eddy. "I do not know how I could have shown more."


"Let's have a look." Justin snatched the paper out of Eddy's hand. "Here, for instance, number 3. That one was complicated. You should have written down the intermediate steps."


"What intermediate steps? I wrote down everything."


"Holy snap! You're not telling me you did that in your head!" Justin's mouth gaped open.


"Sure." Eddy shrugged.




"I just see it in my head."


"Like the numbers on a calculator?"


"Not really," Eddy paused to think. He had never tried to explain how he did math. "Things just sort of group themselves into patterns in my head and I rearrange them. Everyone does it that way, right?"


"Well, I sure don't."


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! :-)