Ellie, Engineer: In the Spotlight

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
Ellie, Engineer: In the Spotlight Book Poster Image
Ellie fixes stuff, tackles mystery in fun pageant tale.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Ellie explains all her inventions: the science behind electrical circuits, the physics of skateboarding, and more.

Positive Messages

Be yourself even if you’re nervous to stand out in a crowd, and remember that brains, heart, and working together toward a common goal are things to be celebrated.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ellie and Kit's parents encourage their girls to be themselves and to use their unique gifts, and the adults in the pageant are interested in and impressed by Ellie's scientific mind.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Jackson Pearce's Ellie, Engineer: In the Spotlight (the third book in the Ellie series) is a well-paced, interesting mystery with fun engineering concepts at its core. When Ellie decides to be a pageant contestant with her best friend, she suddenly feels like her passion for engineering isn't a true talent, and that she should hide her tools and skills in order to fit what she thinks pageant people are looking for. Young readers will enjoy Ellie and Kit's strong friendship, and the way they encourage other contestants to be silly and fun while trying their best. Pearce has a way of showing how engineering concepts are part of everyday life, and can be used to find clues, make friends, and turn stereotypes upside down.

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What's the story?

Young Ellie is a fish out of water at the Miss Peachy Keen Pageant in ELLIE, ENGINEER: IN THE SPOTLIGHT. She tried the pageant because her best friend, Kit, loves doing them -- but when she sees the other girls' talents and is called "unladylike" by Kit's rival, Ellie starts to feel out of place wearing her beloved tool belt with a dress. Things get frantic when one contestant's prop goes missing and another is broken minutes before the talent show, and it looks like Ellie's engineering skills could be the only thing to save the pageant.

Is it any good?

There's so much to love here: strong friendships, well-grounded kids, supportive adults, a fun mystery, and science at every turn. Ellie, Engineer: In the Spotlight has a great storyline that, from beginning to end, celebrates individuality, ambition, and kindness. Kids' pageants aren't known for upending stereotypes or having down-to-earth parents, but both happen here. Ellie is incredibly relatable: She's nervous, a little uncertain, and trying to figure out how to balance being a good friend, a good competitor, and a good mystery-solving engineer. Young readers will likely recognize those feelings in aspects of their own lives, and will learn solid science while they watch Ellie navigate pageant life.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how, in Ellie, Engineer: In the Spotlight, each of the girls has one aspect of the pageant that makes them nervous. Which would make you more nervous: answering questions from a few adults in a quiet room, or performing a talent on stage in front of a large group?

  • Why would someone say that wearing a tool belt is "unladylike"? Are some jobs for girls and some for boys? Or can everyone to any job they want?

  • What other books about inventors have you read?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love STEM stories and friendship tales

Themes & Topics

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