Rosie Revere, Engineer

by Andrea Beaty; ill. by David Roberts

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013

32 pages

Over on the Read Like a Girl Facebook page, I’ve been sharing a lot of posts related to the relative dearth of women in STEM fields.

It’s a subject that’s top-of-mind for me because my daughter, who has always had a science-y bent, is now showing a pronounced interest in STEM-related activities. She’s become an avid scratch Lego builder, and she’s fascinated by computer coding, electrical wiring, and just generally seeing what will happen if you put A and B together and stir. (Her current impromptu experiment is a glass jar filled with a slurry of water and dissolving candy, which I think may be starting to ferment.)

These interests are making me painfully aware of the way STEM-oriented toys are marketed. In short, usually to boys. And when they’re marketed to girls, they’re often turned pink and purple and themed around domesticity, fashion, or shopping–a la Lego Friends, for example.

So lately, I’ve been on the hunt for great STEM toys, activities, and books that will help my daughter feel that she has the same options boys do. I bought her a pink-free Lego set designed around mini-figures of women scientists. When my sister asked about buying her an engineering-themed kit for Christmas, I emphatically said “Yes.” And when I saw a mention of Andrea Beaty and David Roberts’ Rosie Revere, Engineer, I picked it up at the library and left it on the couch where she would see it. (She won’t usually read books if I recommend them directly–it feels too much like following orders. Hm, wonder where she gets that independent streak?)

Rosie Revere is an energetic story about a smart, creative girl who loves to build. But when an uncle laughs down one of her creations, she gives up her favorite hobby out of insecurity.

Years later, her elderly Aunt Rosie, “who’d worked building airplanes a long time ago,” comes for a visit and mentions wistfully that her only regret is never learning to fly. Young Rosie struggles all night with her fear of failure before finally breaking out the building kit and constructing a “cheese-copter” so her aunt can take to the skies.

The copter flies briefly, but crashes, and Rosie is about to give up again when her aunt comes to the rescue. Together, they build a functioning machine–and young Rosie goes on to inspire her school classmates to start building, too.

I love this book not just because it celebrates female engineers, but also because it’s very honest about the frustrations and failures that come with experimentation. Sometimes, people really do mock creative ideas–and prototypes sometimes crash and burn, either literally or figuratively.

Rosie’s response to these challenges is relatable–but so is her recovery. And that’s what makes this book inspiring. It shows girls that they can bounce back from naysaying and failure, and that they should focus on connecting with the people who will help them do so. Ignore the person who’s mocking you, stick with the one who picks up the tools and helps.

In other words, this is a story that doesn’t just encourage girls to think of themselves as potential engineers, but also as persistent, strong overcomers. So it’s valuable for girls like my daughter, who might be interested in STEM careers, as well as for girls who simply need to hear, “You can do it!” And in fact, those are both messages I want my daughter to hear.

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