Jackson Pearce's ELLIE ENGINEER

Jackson Pearce and I used to help judge the River of Words student competition for the Georgia Center for the Book. So, I'm thrilled to have her here today to talk about her latest book, Ellie Engineer.
     Ellie Bell is one of those books that was both a lifetime in the making and a sudden idea.
      I grew up with a father who was all about some home DIY. To the point that honestly, I didn’t realize that most people didn’t install their own light fixtures, re-tile their own kitchens, or plumb in their own basement bathrooms. His philosophy was not “can it be done?” but “how can I do it?”, and I adopted that at a pretty early age. None of his hand tools were off limits, so I frequently stole scraps of wood from our new neighborhood’s many construction sites and turned them into miniature playgrounds for animals (who, much to my shock and dismay, never came by to frolic on them). I built tree houses and forts in the woods, I took apart simple machines and put them back together. My father got a water damaged laptop from his company, and we spent a whole weekend taking it apart, hoping to get it back into working condition (we didn’t, but I learned boatloads about circuitry and a computer’s inner workings).
      And then, as an adult, I remember hearing my college roommate say that in order to get her computer plugged up and working, she needed to “find a boy”. Literally, those were her exact words. She was (and is) a smart, confident, self-assured person, and yet when tasked with putting something together, her default was to find a boy to do it—as if being male meant having some preternatural ability to understand machines. I have heard this sentiment repeated over and over and over—sometimes with a shrug (“What? Boys know how to do that stuff.”) and sometimes with defeat (“No one ever taught me how to do it.”)
      While I think my primary “goal” with Ellie was to show readers how there is no such thing as “boy stuff” and “girl stuff”, my secondary goal, if you could call it that, is to show readers that there are no superpowers. That sounds depressing, I know, but hang with me: No one has some extra, magical, nineteenth sense that means they knew the basics of lawnmower engines in utero. No one has ever looked at the ceiling, been basked in a heavenly glow, and suddenly known exactly how to wire in those new recessed fixtures. No one has ever closed their eyes and, as if in the swamps of Dagobah, used the force to construct a new deck. Not knowing how to do something is not a result; it’s an observation.
      Given my examples, it may sound like the point of this book is to turn everyone into a really fantastic DIY blogger, but that’s not really what I’m going for here: My point is that more kids—more girls, in particular—need to see the world as something they have the power to repair, manipulate, change, and create rather than something that they are merely accessories in. We are not meant to be dolls in someone else’s dollhouse—we’re meant to build the damn dollhouse.
About the book: Ellie is an engineer. With a tool belt strapped over her favorite skirt (who says you can't wear a dress and have two kinds of screwdrivers handy, just in case?), she invents and builds amazing creations in her backyard workshop. Together with her best friend Kit, Ellie can make anything. As Kit's birthday nears, Ellie doesn't know what gift to make until the girls overhear Kit's mom talking about her present--the dog Kit always wanted! Ellie plans to make an amazing doghouse, but her plans grow so elaborate that she has to enlist help from the neighbor boys and crafty girls, even though the two groups don't get along. Will Ellie be able to pull off her biggest project yet, all while keeping a secret from Kit? Illustrated with Ellie's sketches and plans, and including backmatter with a fun how-to guide to tools, this is a STEM- and friendship-powered story full of fun!

About the author: Jackson Pearce lives in Atlanta, Georgia. She is the author of a series of teen retold fairy-tales, including Sisters Red, Sweetly, Fathomless, and Cold Spell, as well as two stand-alones, As You Wish and Purity. As J. Nelle Patrick, she is the author of Tsarina. In addition to The Doublecross and The Inside Job, her middle grade novels include Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures, co-written with Maggie Stiefvater. Visit her at www.jacksonpearce.com and @JacksonPearce (Twitter and Instagram).

1 comment:

Vicky Alvear Shecter said...

I loved this book and really, really, really wish I'd had it when my daughter (and my son!) were younger!