On Today’s Author Spotlight we are chatting with Mollie Elkman about her debut, The House That She Built – an empowering picture book that educates young readers about the people and skills that go into building a home.
Mollie, thank you so much for making this interview possible! I am thrilled to chat with you about The House That She Built, but before we dive in, would you like to introduce yourself?
Hi! I’m Mollie Elkman. Mom to Zachary (10) and Zoey (4). I own group two, a marketing company for home builders.
The House That She Built is your first picture book. What inspired you to write the book?
One of my favorite builders (Kristi Allen) who has become a close friend of mine asked us to help do the marketing for an ambitious project she was part of. An all-women-built home.
Being exposed to over 100 women in building throughout the project and learning about their different stories and paths into careers in construction was incredibly inspiring. These women are amazing and have great careers, yet most people don’t think of women when they think of construction jobs.
Title: The House That She Built
Author: Mollie Elkman
Illustrator: Georgia Castellano
Publisher: Builder Books
Published: September 14, 2021
Format: Picture Book
Some people may wonder, “Why do we need a home built entirely by women?”. How do you answer those types of questions and help folks understand the importance of the project?
Right now there is a skilled labor shortage, which is only projected to get worse. With less than 3% of construction jobs being filled by women, it’s really important to show that women are completely capable of having very successful careers in construction. We want all underrepresented communities to know there are many different opportunities and paths to success.
What was the research process like for The House That She Built? Did your experience as a second-generation business owner in housing help you along with the research?
So many women like myself were brought into the housing industry by a father or grandfather. We would love to help break that cycle by making more women aware of these career opportunities. One of the most moving experiences for me while working on the book was being in the garage of the project that inspired the book. The walls were filled with pictures of all the women who had worked on the home during all stages of the build. Most of these women are used to being the only woman on the average jobsite, so this project was really special because it emphasized that not only are they not alone, but there is room for so many more!
I love the way The House That She Built highlights the variety of skilled jobs needed to build a home. Even as an adult, I never really thought about how many people are involved in building a home. Are the 18 jobs found in the book the original lineup, or did you have to narrow down from a larger scope?
Ah I love this question! No one has asked this yet. We absolutely had to narrow it down and there are many additional careers that are important and necessary. We tried to focus on the logical order of jobs from the planning stage all the way to the final touches to show the progression. There are so many other roles happening at the same time, though like installing the windows and doors! The intent was to get kids thinking about the space around them and the different skills and people that went into creating that space.
I know that Georgia Castellano, the illustrator, is the creative director at your company, Group Two. Did you two work closely throughout the illustration process?
We did! Not just through the illustration process but really the entire process of marketing and publishing. Georgia is extremely talented and we work really well together. Beyond that, we are friends which made this experience really fun.
Do you have a favorite spread? If so, which one?
I would say my favorite is the General Contractor because she is based on Kristi Allen who I mentioned before. I feel like she gave me this amazing gift by bringing me into the project she was working on and it makes me happy to see the cartoon version of her represented in the book.
Is there possibly another book in your future?
Next up, we will have an activity book to go along with the book. It’s incredible and I can’t wait to share it. From there, I really want to develop some curriculum for schools that highlight the different skills in the book. There has been a real emphasis on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) and this book fits really well into the conversation.
Is there anything else you’d like for Mutually Inclusive’s Readers to know?
Yes! This is a mission based initiative so all proceeds support workforce development initiatives in the homebuilding industry.
I would love to offer your readers a coloring page to download and print! It’s really fun to see how different kids can take the same image and create a completely unique finished piece.
That is so generous! Thank you so much for that surprise, and for joining us today to talk about The House That She Built.