Ellie navigates secrets and gender conflicts while trying to create an amazing birthday gift.
Ellie and her best friend, Kit, overhear Kit’s mother talking about Kit’s upcoming birthday, and she mentions “Miss Penelope”—the name Kit’s picked out for a dog (her stepfather’s and sister’s dog allergies complicate her wish). When Ellie’s first attempt at a birthday gift doesn’t go so well (Ellie has a healthy, relaxed attitude about trial and error and perseverance), she decides to make a doghouse for Miss Penelope. To complete such a grand project in so few days, she enlists help from eager engineering student Toby and an artistic trio of girls named Madison, Taylor, and McKinley (they draw a comic book called The Presidents)—but she doesn’t let them know about one another, as the trio and the neighborhood boys don’t get along. Ellie feels guilty about her deception as well as for deceiving Kit so she can spend time away from her working on the doghouse. Eventually, she’s caught and must come clean. This she does neatly in a way that explicitly rejects the idea that activities and objects are gendered (e.g., boys and girls can both like engineering and tea parties). Throughout, she engineers both pranks and inventive ways around various obstacles, always using common materials. (Mourning supplies diagrams of both, amplifying the humor.) The twist ending is not what most readers will expect. Characters lack physical descriptions, but Ellie’s depicted with pale skin on the cover.A spirited, duplicable depiction of STEM fun. (tool guide) (Fiction. 7-11)
Gr 2-4--A charming book featuring an engineer who makes mistakes when navigating the roads of friendship. Ellie Bell decides to build a doghouse for her best friend Kit's birthday with the help of her neighbor Toby. When she also gets help from three neighborhood girls who don't like boys, (including Toby), she begins to lie to keep from making anyone angry. At the same time, her friendship with Kit starts to suffer because she is keeping the doghouse a surprise. In the end, Ellie finds a way to bridge the gap between the boys and the girls while saving her best friendship. The book touches on gender bias by showing that activities should not be categorized as "boy things" or "girl things." Girls can like engineering and soccer while boys can like tea parties. Pencil illustrations of Ellie's sketches and designs are included throughout the book. The end contains a guide to Ellie's favorite tools. In addition to spotlighting engineering, the narrative contains strong themes of friendship and working together toward a common goal. VERDICT A solid addition to chapter book collections.--V. Lynn Christiansen, Wiley International Studies Magnet Elementary School, Raleigh, NCCopyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
Juggling themes of friendship, honesty, and ingenuity, Pearce (The Inside Job) introduces Ellie Bell, a self-described "neighborhood engineer" whose projects include building a water balloon launcher to bombard boys who won't let her play soccer with them. Throughout, Pearce emphasizes Ellie's persistence and individuality: Ellie wears her tool belt over a "fluffy and purple" skirt and takes ballet lessons with her best friend Kit, a beauty pageant competitor. After eavesdropping, Ellie concludes that Kit's mother is planning on giving her a dog for her birthday, which sets the young engineer's creative wheels in motion. Ellie enlists her friends' help to build a doghouse, but she doesn't tell them who else is pitching in, which makes for hurt feelings--one thing Ellie has trouble fixing. Ellie's less-than-successful creations make for some funny moments ( "It does look like your hair is French braided underneath the knots," she consoles Kit after a disastrous tryout of a hair-braiding device), and Mourning's notebook-style images help give a sense of how Ellie's brain works. Ages 8-12. Author's agent: Josh Adams, Adams Literary. Illustrator's agency: Shannon Associates. (Jan.)Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
"Charming. . . . In addition to spotlighting engineering, the narrative contains strong themes of friendship and working together toward a common goal." - School Library Journal
"Ellie's easily relatable as an everyday kid . . . Aspiring inventors will appreciate the descriptions and black and white sketches of Ellie's various creations, so be sure to make some room in the makerspace for Ellie's new fans." - BCCB
"Pearce emphasizes Ellie's persistence and individuality. . . . Mourning's notebook-style images help give a sense of how Ellie's brain works." - Publishers Weekly
"Explicitly rejects the idea that activities and objects are gendered (e.g., boys and girls can both like engineering and tea parties). The twist ending is not what most readers will expect. A spirited, duplicable depiction of STEM fun." - Kirkus Reviews
"An entertaining and memorable story. . . Pearce sets the stage for what could easily become a favorite series." - Publishers Weekly on THE DOUBLECROSS
"Oddball characters with plenty of heart and nifty gadgets will draw in readers who appreciate humorous underdog stories." - Booklist on THE DOUBLECROSS
"A fun-filled adventure from start to finish." - Booklist on THE INSIDE JOB
"This sequel will continue to thrill fans of the series. Wacky and action-packed." - Kirkus Reviews on THE INSIDE JOB