Move over stuffy old adult engineers (that’s engineers who build things, not engineers on trains!), there’s a new engineer in town. Ellie, Engineer, by Jackson Pearce, is an inventive, adventurous, thing-building pre-teen who can sketch and build just about anything she sets her mind to.
The book opens with Ellie rigging a balloon launcher to sling water balloons at the neighborhood boys who refuse to allow Ellie and Kit to play with them. After the boys are good and wet, Ellie rigs a quick “listening device” (i.e., empty water glasses pressed against a door) so she and Kit can find out what Kit is getting for her birthday. When they hear Ellie’s mom say she’s getting a dog for her birthday, Ellie knows just what to make for her best friend’s birthday: a dog house!
For the next 160+ pages, young Ellie begins to sketch, design and build a dog house unlike any young readers have ever seen! But since this young genius is also an expert multi-tasker, she is also able to make all sorts of other necessary things at the same time: a metal hair braider to try out on Kit’s hair; a non-violent alarm for one of the neighborhood boys who is tired of his little brothers sneaking in his room, and even a water-sprinkler made out of a rubber snake. This young genius engineer is all brains and creative energy, and enthusiastically creates everything a young girl (or boy) can imagine throughout the book. She even goes through great pains to teach anyone (boy or girl) who wants to learn how to build things for themselves.
This is a timely book about STEM, smart girls, and unrestrained creative genius. The prose is fast-paced and humorous, and author Jackson Pearce encourages creative thinking and hands-on experimentation at every turn. Middle grade readers will identify with Ellie’s real-time creativity, and just may be inspired to do some creating of their own. For this reason, Ms. Pearce includes a short guide at end of the book called Ellie’s Favorite Tools. Inside, Ellie describes tools like hammers, screwdrivers and tape measures and explains their look and proper use.
Use this book in your middle grade social studies class, or as a staple in a middle school guidance office. It will also make a great gift for your precocious daughter, niece or student who likes to do things the unconventional way.