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)