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OPINION: Girls just wanna design, engineer and build

Ellie Bell is always inventing. But not just in her mind. She sketches her projects onto paper -- and turns them into action. "Ellie, Engineer," by Jackson Pearce, begins with the "Water Empress" -- a water balloon launcher that Ellie creates to ...

Girls build and design in Ellie, Engineer
Girls build and design in Ellie, Engineer

Ellie Bell is always inventing. But not just in her mind. She sketches her projects onto paper - and turns them into action.

"Ellie, Engineer," by Jackson Pearce, begins with the "Water Empress" - a water balloon launcher that Ellie creates to soak the neighborhood boys who won't let her play soccer.

But Ellie's biggest goal is to surprise her best friend Kit with an amazing doghouse for the dog that Kit thinks she's going to get for her birthday.

Although Ellie's progress on the doghouse runs smoothly (she uses stomped-on pop cans for shingles and a rubber snake with holes for a sprinkler), she runs into problems.

In the process of designing and building the doghouse, Ellie enlists help from the neighborhood boys and keeps it a secret from the girls she has also enlisted to help. She tells a few lies, and before long, everybody (even Kit) is mad at her.

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How will she solve a problem that screwdrivers and hand-drills can't fix?

"Ellie, Engineer" is full of outdoor neighborhood action and nonstop thinking, designing, and building.

Although I would like to see Ellie doing more tweaking and modifying of her inventions, her active mind is contagious. (So are all of her sketches!)

The book also addresses gender stereotypes and assumptions, especially as she deals with attitudes about "Girl Stuff" and "Boy Stuff." Instead, she wisely categorizes her interests as "Ellie stuff" and "Not-Ellie Stuff."

By the end, the boys and girls are working together on the doghouse, demonstrating teamwork and cooperation.

And speaking of the end, Kit's "dog" totally surprised me.

"Ellie, Engineer" is full of optimism, cooperation, and a heavy dose of "can-do." In fact, it has the perfect potential to become a series.

Author Jackson Pearce is also the author of a series of re-told fairy tales and "Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures," co-written with Maggie Stiefvater.

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"Ellie, Engineer." By Jackson Pearce. Bloomsbury, 2018. 192 pp.

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