Ellie, Engineer

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Ellie, Engineer Book Poster Image
Girl solves boys-vs.-girls dispute in smart series start.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Simple but effective depiction of engineering process: identifying problems; brainstorming, researching, and testing possible solutions; planning and executing a build; and testing the final product. Includes guide to common tools like safety glasses and screwdrivers. Encourages enterprising kids to get permission from adults before helping themselves to materials around the house. Shows value of teamwork.

Positive Messages

There's no such thing as "boy stuff" and "girl stuff." Sincere apologies are important but often need to be backed up with meaningful action. It's better to take action than just worry about something. Research, planning, and collaboration are key parts of problem-solving.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ellie is enterprising and creative. She's thoughtful and considerate, eager to delight her friend, and happy to fix small problems she notices in her neighborhood. She learns from her mistakes. Ellie enjoys pranks but tries to avoid causing harm or property damage. Children offer sincere apologies, take responsibility for their actions, and try to make things right. They also enjoy sharing ideas and collaborating.

Violence & Scariness
Language

Children refer to "jerk boys" and "gross girls." Joking reference to boys drawing "butts."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ellie, Engineer is the first in a series about a third-grader who sees herself as the "neighborhood engineer" and helps other children turn their ideas into successful projects. It offers a strong message about discarding outdated ideas about gender roles for both girls and boys, and encourages creative yet practical problem-solving. Ellie gets involved in some pranks, like launching water balloons at boys who exclude girls from a game, helping to rig an over-the-door bucket to bust a boy who enters his brother’s room without permission, and catching pranksters in the act.

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What's the story?

ELLIE, ENGINEER introduces can-do third-grader Ellie Bell, who sports a tool belt over her fluffy skirt. The French-braider she invents for her best friend, Kit, is a bust, so Ellie scrambles to build a better birthday present. Since Kit expects her big gift will be a dog, Ellie aims to make the best doghouse ever. It's such a big project, she agrees to let her neighbor Toby help. Then she recruits McKinley, Taylor, and Madison, known as The Presidents, to decorate. But boys and girls don't get along in her neighborhood, and Ellie's sure neither Toby nor The Presidents can work together. So she lies about who's doing what, and Toby, The Presidents, and even Kit all get their feelings hurt -- and that's one problem Ellie isn't sure how to fix.

Is it any good?

In her bright new series start, author Jackson Pearce presents a simple yet effective overview of how to systematically engineer solutions, from what to build to how to work together. The girls and boys here defy conventions: Ellie loves getting her hands dirty, Kit enjoys being in beauty pageants, and Toby likes both tea parties and drawing butts. Ellie, Engineer showcases a strong girl who frets about "jerk boys" but makes a strong case for dumping assumptions about what girls and boys do and don't like. Ellie's enthusiasm and initiative sometimes get her into trouble, but she's always learning -- and her heart's in the right place.

Tuesday Mourning's illustrations of the plans Ellie and her friends come up with make the idea of sketching out builds approachable. Ellie's projects are less far-fetched than the inventions in many books featuring precocious young builders, which helps make engineering principles very accessible. And an engaging heroine with appealing friends makes the whole package plenty of fun.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Ellie lies to her friends in Ellie, Engineer. Do you think some "white lies" are ever OK?

  • Have you ever felt excluded just because you're a boy or a girl?

  • Have you solved a problem by using an engineering approach like Ellie's? Try planning your own build.

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