Monday, November 26, 2012

The Reinvention of Edison Thomas by Jacqueline Houtman

From Goodreads: 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.

My Two Cents: There's so much here to love. A protagonist who is totally unique and instantly earns our loyalty. Clever chapter titles and fun facts from Eddy's "Random Access Memory." Natural and poignant lessons on problem solving, community, and friendship. And, as a bonus, a pretty decent helping of science. There are a growing number of books about kids with autism and Aspergers, and this is among the best.

Grade Level: 5-8

Additional Resources:
Jacqueline Houtman's website
A fun activity that demonstrates eddy currents
Interactive animation showing position, velocity, and acceleration
A useful site for kids who want to learn morse code like Eddy, and a game to test their skills
A fun photographic periodic table
A printable guide from Indiana University to help kids understand autism

More to Read:
Another book for middle grade readers that deals with autism from a kid's perspective: Rules by Cynthia Lord
Another book about a kid who would rather spend time doing scientific research than anything else: Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head by Nancy Viau
Another book about a boy who has a learning disability (but absolutely isn't defined by it): Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos

Also, I'm thrilled to say that I've scored an interview with Jacqueline and a signed (!) copy of The Reinvention of Edison Thomas to give away here! Check back Wednesday for the interview and details about the givaway, and click back here Thursday for a fun holiday science post that Eddy himself would enjoy.

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