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Ellie Engle Saves Herself

by Leah Johnson

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545491,790 (4.5)None
From award-winning YA author Leah Johnson comes her middle grade debut: a laugh-until-you-cry, cry-until-you-laugh story about friendship, change, and the power we have to love ourselves. Ellie Engle doesn't stand out. Not at home, where she's alone with her pet fish since her dad moved away and her mom has to work around the clock . Not at the bakery, where she helps out old Mr. Walker on the weekends. And definitely not at school, where her best friend Abby-the coolest, boldest, most talented girl in the world-drags Ellie along on her never-ending quest to "make her mark." To someone else, a life in the shadows might seem boring, or lonely. But not to Ellie. As long as she has Abby by her side and a comic book in her hand, she's quite content. Too bad life didn't bother checking in with Ellie. Because when a freak earthquake hits her small town, Ellie wakes up with the power to bring anything back to life with just her touch. And when a video of her using her powers suddenly goes viral, Ellie's life goes somewhere she never imagined-or wanted: straight into the spotlight. Surviving middle school is hard enough. Surviving middle school when paparazzi are camped out on your front lawn and an international pop singer wants you to use your powers on live tv and you might be in love with your best friend but she doesn't know it? Absolutely impossible.… (more)
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Showing 4 of 4
Gr 4–8—Ellie has always been fine getting by as an unremarkable girl. Then a magical earthquake imbues her with
powers, and she finds herself thrust into the strangest of spotlights. This sweet novel uses a superpower plot to
explore eminently relatable coming-of-age topics with humor and heart.
  BackstoryBooks | Apr 1, 2024 |
An incredible allegory for everyone who desperately needs a hero.

“[...] That’s the worst part about being different. The loneliness. It’s hard to think of yourself as the same as the person next to you when it seems like no one else is anything like you.”

I’m in awe of this middle-grade novel. And yet, I have no words that are justified enough to explain why. Maybe I have to just speak from the heart. Growing up, I was one of those kids who needed a hero - a person who was just like me. Someone I could look up to so I wouldn’t feel so lonely. Reading a book like this one would have positively changed my whole self-awareness. I would have seen that I have superpowers and that I belong.

Leah Johnson gifted this book to the world when we most needed it. And I’m hoping it will reach the kids who need it the most. ( )
  OpenedBooks | Oct 26, 2023 |
What happens when a middle schooler wakes up with a necromantic super power after an early morning earthquake? I really appreciate that this book tackles some serious subjects in a lighthearted framework. It has a lot to say about friendship dynamics, and about how sometimes friendships are toxic and you have to re-negotiate them or leave them. That's a hard lesson at any age, but a really good one to learn young. It's also very good as a model for how to think about, cope with, and pursue new talents and interests, even when they make you the center of attention. I also really liked that while Ellie's story is clearly at the center, her friends are vibrant characters with their own arcs to contend with. Really stellar book. ( )
  jennybeast | Oct 4, 2023 |
Ellie Engle lives in her best friend Abby Ortega's shadow, until the first morning of middle school, when a freak earthquake changes Ellie forever: her senses are heightened, and she has life-giving powers over plants and animals. She's able to keep it a secret from everyone but Abby, until an incident in science class where she resurrects a frog and a classmate catches it on video. Suddenly, Ellie is in the spotlight, Abby is jealous, and Ellie feels completely alone and confused - and then the more-famous-than-Taylor-Swift Willa Moon shows up on her doorstep, asking her to resurrect her dead dog. But there's no give without take, which Ellie learns from a surprising source: her grandpa's best friend Mr. Walker, who owns the bakery where Ellie's mom works. He too gained surprising powers after an earthquake, after he returned from Vietnam, and has spent a lifetime figuring them out, so he is able to help Ellie. Ellie is ready with plenty of superhero knowledge from comics and movies, and while Abby keeps her distance, Ellie discovers that Sammy Spencer, a popular kid with two moms, is also a comics nerd.

A fun and thought-provoking premise with a special main character ("ribbit").

Quotes

It used to bother me, people noticing Abby and not me, but not anymore. I like how calm it is in her shadow. (4)

It's easier, sometimes, in the dark, to say what you mean. (14)

You don't know what you don't know until what you don't know is staring you right in the face. (46)

p. 64-65, when Ms. Winston is teaching about the Irish potato blight, she neglects to mention the role of English landlords in creating famine conditions.

[My powers] may be scary, but they're mine....The possibilities suddenly feel limitless. (69)

She had her thing and I had mine. We met in the middle, and the middle was us. Together. (94)

"Being different ain't bad. Makes you grow." (Mr. Walker, 95)

It would feel good to tell an adult, right? Isn't that what you're supposed to do when you have a problem too big to handle on your own? (96)

One of the reasons I stick to what I know is because it's easier that way. If you don't have to learn anything new, you don't make as many mistakes. (103)

...there are a lot of people who hate what they can't understand - who love power, but only if they can control it. (173)

Some people are meant to be in the spotlight. And some people, people like me, are meant to watch from the wings. Or, at least that's what I always thought. (184)

I feel like a balloon that just got popped, all the air rushes out of me so fast. I didn't realize how badly I just needed someone to believe me, to trust what I say without my having to explain every little detail to them. (211)

Because that's the worst part about being different. The loneliness. (216)

"The only way out is through." (218)

...making one person your home is a bad idea because there's nowhere to run when it falls apart. (231)

...if I leave how I feel about myself up to other people, I'm always gonna feel horrible. (246)

Poppy used to say that the bad guys aren't all so bad, and the good guys aren't all so good, and that's what makes stories interesting. That there is always some room for change. (247) ( )
  JennyArch | Aug 30, 2023 |
Showing 4 of 4
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From award-winning YA author Leah Johnson comes her middle grade debut: a laugh-until-you-cry, cry-until-you-laugh story about friendship, change, and the power we have to love ourselves. Ellie Engle doesn't stand out. Not at home, where she's alone with her pet fish since her dad moved away and her mom has to work around the clock . Not at the bakery, where she helps out old Mr. Walker on the weekends. And definitely not at school, where her best friend Abby-the coolest, boldest, most talented girl in the world-drags Ellie along on her never-ending quest to "make her mark." To someone else, a life in the shadows might seem boring, or lonely. But not to Ellie. As long as she has Abby by her side and a comic book in her hand, she's quite content. Too bad life didn't bother checking in with Ellie. Because when a freak earthquake hits her small town, Ellie wakes up with the power to bring anything back to life with just her touch. And when a video of her using her powers suddenly goes viral, Ellie's life goes somewhere she never imagined-or wanted: straight into the spotlight. Surviving middle school is hard enough. Surviving middle school when paparazzi are camped out on your front lawn and an international pop singer wants you to use your powers on live tv and you might be in love with your best friend but she doesn't know it? Absolutely impossible.

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