As a friend said as she read the book to her toddler the other week:
The lead character is a girl with dark skin. It’s terrible that I even notice that…
But we do, because diversity is still sadly lacking in many kids’ books. It’s a tricky thing, because a good book with a white, male protagonist is still a good book. But when almost every book has a white, male protagonist… Well, it’s not so good.
Ada Twist, Scientist, by Andrea Beaty
Value for money
This is an entertaining and relatable story about a curious young scientist. Unfortunately curious children don't always know when to stop their investigations, but perhaps that could teach us all a lesson. Ada Twist, Scientist is a lovely read, beautifully illustrated, and provides food for thought for little scientists and their parents too.
This book is not about diversity — it’s just a great book about a curious kid — but Andrea Beaty is good at representation. Her three books so far (we’re already reviewed Rosie Revere, Engineer; Iggy Peck, Architect is the third) all feature children in the same classroom at Blue River Creek school. The illustrations of the class show a very normal (but diverse) looking group of kids. As it should be!
As well as covering off both racial and gender diversity, Andrea Beaty’s characters demonstrate what all parents know, but society likes to forget, about young children; they are full of distinctive personality traits from very early on. Of course, not all kids have genius at the level demonstrated in these stories, but often the interests of kids are apparent — and strongly expressed — from a young age.
As a science-loving family, we love many aspects of this book. The use of the word “hypothesis” is a win (when did you last see that used in a picture book?). Another is the dual inspiration for Ada Marie Twist; Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie. And then there are the questions.
Constant questioning is a common trait of young children, and I love that the book treats this as something to embrace. My husband and I have learned (or re-learned) many things about the world since having kids, and our kids haven’t even hit school yet! Hopefully we can remember that the annoying questions are worthy of helpful responses for many years to come.
My mum read this to our Little Monkey first, and then warned me that it features young Ada using the walls to work through her questions. The Little Monkey has since experimented with drawing on the walls, so I am slightly worried that this gives the wrong impression in that regard. Luckily he chose one that is waiting for paint — but perhaps it would be wise to supervise any drawing activities soon after reading the story.
Apart from the wall-drawing I can’t find anything to grumble about, so I reckon this is an excellent option if you are looking for something to read to a curious little person.
Awesome or Average: Awesome
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