Ellie, Engineer

by Jackson Pearce, Bloomsbury USA Childrens 2018.

When the boys of the neighborhood exclude the girls from their soccer game, Ellie Engineer and her best friend Kit strike back by building an amazing water balloon launcher and soaking them all. The water balloon launcher is just one of the many engineering ideas that Ellie keeps in a notebook in her tool belt along with her hammer, two screwdrivers, and her prized possession, a mini electric drill. Ellie loves engineering, and all the neighborhood kids are eager to help, but the ins and outs of friendship prove a bit harder to solve than the problems Ellie encounters with a hammer and nails. Nevertheless, Ellie persists and puts her brain to work to solve problems both physical and personal.

I predict that Ellie, Engineer will inspire a generation of tool-carrying, invention-drawing kids in the same way that Harriet the Spy inspired note-scribbling, sneaking kids in my generation. Readers will root for Ellie as she designs solutions to problems and gets herself out of scrapes. Themes include questioning gender roles, friendship, and inventiveness. For teachers looking for strong girls and STEM connections, you’ll find them in this delightful new series.

Ellie, Engineer is the first of Jackson Pearce’s books I’ve read, but I’m now inspired to look for more. You can bet I’ll be waiting expectantly for the next book in the Ellie, Engineer series to come out.

I received a review copy of Ellie, Engineer from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. It will be on sale Tuesday, January 16, 2018.

Cloud and Wallfish by Anne Nesbit

cloud-and-wallfishCandlewick Press, 2016.

It’s an ordinary day of sixth grade for Noah Keller until his parents pick him up from school. Then, suddenly everything in his life turns on its ear. He learns that his name is not really Noah Keller, he’s not eleven yet, and their normal American life is being replaced by an extraordinary new life behind the wall in East Germany.

Communication is tricky in his new home, and strangely enough that has very little to do with Noah, now Jonah’s Astonishing Stutter. In East Germany, Noah must speak German, he has not been given permission to go to school, and perhaps most importantly he must follow his parents rules about what he may say or ask and where. It’s a lonely and confusing new world. But when Jonah meets Cloud-Claudia who lives downstairs with her grandmother, his world becomes a lot less lonely but quite a bit more interesting, confusing, and even dangerous.

Cloud and Wallfish is a masterful telling of the tale of East Germany immediately before the demise of the Berlin Wall. Though at first I bristled at Noah-Jonah’s attitude toward him as they upended his life to take him behind the iron curtain, how could they do it without an explanation? How could they be so darned cheerful about it? I soon was drawn into the story and began to trust the kindness and good nature of the parents, and unlike Noah-Jonah, I remained frustrated at the many things they wouldn’t divulge to him.

Anne Nesbit’s writing is unique and appealing as in this passage when the American family is sitting down to dinner with Jonah’s friend from the downstairs apartment. “It was the longest group of words any of them had ever heard Cloud-Claudia say. They all tried not to gape at her. There was a lot of friendly staring at spoons.”

I will want to read Cloud and Wallfish again. It’s a wonderful book to help children today understand the end of the era of the Cold War, but it is also simply a good story about the complexities of relationships, friendships, governments, and life. Highly recommended for schools, libraries, and homes.

I received an advance reader copy of  Cloud and Wallfish from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Code Name Verity by Elisabeth Wein

code-name-verity

Hyperion, 2012

Maddie’s a wiz with an engine. She’s proved it with the motorbike her granddad gave her for her birthday, but her focus on motorbikes quickly changes in 1938 when a young noblewoman crash lands her Puss Moth airplane in a pasture near Maddie’s home. The chance meeting leads to an opportunity for Maddie to learn to fly, which she continues until the war begins in earnest. But the war brings unusual opportunities for women both in work and friendship. Code Name Verity is the story of two such women, women thrown together by the war who build a strong and enduring friendship.

When I saw this title on the library shelf, I remembered that the book had caused a fair amount of buzz when it came out. I’d never followed the buzz into detail. Perhaps all I’d seen was on Twitter, and the cover, which looks like it’s about torture. Which, to be fair, is an important part of the story, but I’m hesitant to read books about torture, strange for someone who devours mysteries and thrillers and books about World War II, I know. But be still my heart, the other things this book has – England, Scotland, World War II, codes, women pilots, Special Operations Executive spies, the Moon Squadron and a fabulous friendship between two women. How could I have waited four years to read this book?

I spent a good part of last weekend engrossed in its pages. I found Code Name Verity to be extremely well researched, and I’ve read a lot about WWII and Special Operations Executive in the past years. I found it an utterly gripping story. The suspense drew me in; trying to piece together the story and the story beneath the words kept me riveted; and the personal relationships in the book kept me satisfied. This book will appeal to so many different types of readers.

I won’t chance spoiling the plot by revealing more, but I will recommend this book for personal reading, classrooms, and libraries. I’ll be adding Code Name Verity to my select private library. And next time I anticipate a quiet weekend, I’ll search out Rose Under Fire, another World War II book from Elizabeth Wein. I’ll let you know what I think.