Review: The Reinvention of Edison Thomas by Jacqueline Houtman


Title: The Reinvention of Edison Thomas

Author: Jacqueline Houtman

Publisher: Front Street

ISBN: 9791590787083


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Science geek Eddy Thomas can invent useful devices to do anything, except solve his bully problem. 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. By trusting his real friends, Eddy uses his talents to help others and rethinks his purely mechanical definition of success.

I liked protagonist Eddy Thomas so much!  This is another good book with a not so conventional lead character.  Though it’s never labeled in the book, he is autistic,  and navigating the confusing world of socialization is a struggle for him.  He is incredibly intelligent, but he loses patience with himself when he can’t even tell if a classmate is bullying him.  Loud noises leave him on edge and new situations upset him.  His greatest comfort comes from his inventions, which he painstakingly constructs from items collected from dumpsters. 

I felt sorry for Eddy because the adults at school didn’t understand him at all.  His teachers and the principal made me angry at times.  Eddy is having trouble socializing with his peers, and instead of dealing with his issues compassionately, all they wanted to do was punish him.  His father didn’t always have the patience needed to help him work through his problems, either.  It’s geeky classmate Justin who goes out of his way to understand Eddy, and even introduces him to new friends.  It takes a lot of effort on Eddy’s part to accept their friendship, and when he finally does, it shows just how much he has grown during the book.

The Reinvention of Edison Thomas is a low-key read, and the slow pacing might not be for everyone.  The focus here is on Eddy and his struggle to work his way through each day.  He is lost without his carefully compiled lists of things he needs to do,  and he often misinterprets social cues.  It’s when he finds the courage to step outside of his comfort zone that Eddy, and this book, really shine.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Cleopatra Rules by Vicky Alvear Shecter


Title: Cleopatra Rules!

Author: Vicky Alvear Shecter

Publisher: Boyds Mills Press

ISBN: 9781590787182


May Contain Spoilers

I have mentioned many times that I love books set in ancient times, and I find learning about how people lived thousands of years ago fascinating.  I mean, think about it!  There was no texting, instant messaging, or Skype.  No printing presses, antibiotics, or iPods.  No packages with the big smiley. Ugh!  The struggle to survive constant wars, diseases, and Mother Nature would have taken up most of everyone’s time, making me glad that I can sit in my air conditioned house and reflect on the past, instead of experiencing it first hand.  Cleopatra is an especially compelling historical figure, and one who I love reading about.

The problem with reading non-fiction accounts of the past is that they tend to be rather dry and not exactly engaging.  You can toss aside all of those boring biographies about Cleopatra, though, and grab this book instead.  Cleopatra Rules! examines the cunning Egyptian queen’s life, relaying her story in contemporary terms and through the use of photographs of relics from her time.  Ancient Roman and Egyptian cultural aspects are clearly explained, and the narrative zips along at a rapid clip.

While I love fictional accounts of the lives of ancient leaders, I am not always so fond of biographical works, especially for recreational reading.  Cleopatra Rules! follows Cleopatra’s victories and defeats in an entertaining and compelling way.  I painlessly learned all about her, Caesar, and Marc Anthony, and found myself caught up in the text.  The glossy pages, which featured many photos and cultural points of reference, made this an attractive book as well.  Politics of the day are covered in easy to understand terms, and Vicky Alvear Shecter’s narrative made this history lesson fun and memorable.  I wish she had written my Principals of Accounting text!

Grade: B

Review copy provided by the publisher