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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 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.
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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.From School Library Journal:
Grade 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
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