Celeste Saves the City, by East Dallas author Courtney Kelly, is illustrated by Erin Nielson.

East Dallas resident Courtney Kelly has a remarkable real life story — survived Hurricane Katrina, relocated from New Orleans to Texas, earned several degrees including an M.S. in civil engineering from SMU and an MBA from Lamar. She’s a licensed engineer who has worked on projects at DFW International and Love Field Airports, highways and local municipalities. And now she’s turned experience into an inspirational children’s book called Celeste Saves the City.

Kelly’s book introduces readers to civil engineering while sharing a story of how bad events can inspire positive, life changing outcomes, according to the author, who was a sophomore in high school when the devastating storm hit in 2005.

“I remember thinking, why do we have to leave? With the prospect of college ahead, civil engineering would be the field I would go onto in hopes of discovering ways to mitigate damage from similar events,” Kelly notes on her website. “Many years later, while driving back to Dallas after spending time with family in Louisiana, Celeste Saves the City was born. Seeking to expose children to civil engineering, the city of New Orleans, and the topic of wetland restoration, my dream of saving the city is being fulfilled through Celeste.”

Dr. Linda Cook, president of the National Science Education Leadership Association calls Kelly’s book “delightful.”

“I especially love that the solution to the flooding problem was restoration of the wetlands area,” Cook says. “This book would be great to share with elementary school librarians, science teachers and environmental groups. The illustrations are beautiful — great choice in illustrator.”

The representation of Celeste as a young Black girl provides a window for children of all backgrounds to envision the possibilities of what an engineer looks like, notes the author.

Author Courtney Kelly

“The importance of education is highlighted as Celeste transitions from a child to a young woman. Civil engineering is emphasized both through the text and in images of iconic engineering marvels. Leadership and teamwork are also key elements that round out the depiction of Celeste’s career.”

In her spare time, Kelly serves on the board for SOSMC USA, a nonprofit raising funds to renovate three buildings on the campus of a school for low-income disabled children in Chennai, India.

You can learn more about the author, purchase a copy of Celeste Saves the City and other merchandise for aspiring civil engineers at courtneykellybooks.com.


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