Thursday, March 29, 2018

Ellie, Engineer by Jackson Pearce, illustrated by Tuesday Mourning

The story begins with Ellie Bell in her workshop, getting ready to engineer a creation that will pay back the neighborhood boys for keeping her and her best friend Kit out of their soccer game. Ellie's creation works and the boys are soon soaking wet! But she's always planning the next project - and that next project is going to be an amazing doghouse for Kit, after she and Kit overhear Kit's mom saying (they think) that she's finally getting her longed-for dog.

If only Ellie Bell could engineer her relationships as easily as she engineers things with wood and screws! She soon discovers that she needs more help with her doghouse, but she can't ask Kit, her usual companion in engineering. She finds herself teamed up with Toby, the ringleader of the boys, and the crafty girls' group. But none of these groups get along and Kit is starting to wonder what Ellie's up to. Can she make an awesome doghouse, some new friends, and figure out how to keep everyone happy?

Most of Tuesday Mourning's illustrations are sketches from Ellie's notebook, mechanical drawings, and illustrations of her interesting creations. Ellie is shown as white on the cover and the race of the other characters is not shown. At the back of the book are brief descriptions of the different tools Ellie uses and how readers can use their own tools.

Ellie's story is a little didactic; it's hammered (heh) home rather heavily that she likes both building things and cute dresses; her best friend Kit enjoys being in pageants and playing with fashion, but also likes building things with Ellie. For this age group, though, they need things spelled out explicitly. There's a lot of different interests shown and Ellie appears as the glue that sticks together all the different groups; the boys who like to build things and play soccer, but also feel bad that they aren't invited to the fancy tea party, the girls who like to decorate things and are crafty, but think that building things might be fun too. Ellie reflects on how mad she was when the boys wouldn't let her play soccer because she's a girl and realizes that they feel left out too when they aren't invited to the tea party. This is an over-simplification of a complicated issue, but it's presented in a way that makes sense to kids.

Verdict: A fun STEM-themed book that reminds girls they can like what they like - be it engineering, crafts, fashion, or all three. While it has a rather pat ending, kids will delight in the coming together of all the loose threads, the creation of new friendships, and the surprise happy ending.

ISBN: 9781681195193; Published January 16, 2018 by Bloomsbury; ARC provided by publisher; Purchased for the library

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