Cover of Ada Twist, Scientist, by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts. Fair use rationale.

Ada Marie Twist is named after two of the many influential (and often underappreciated) women of science whose curiosity led to incredible discoveries. The Marie comes from Marie Curie, whose discovery of the elements polonium and radium led to the invention of X-rays, while the Ada is for Ada Lovelace, a mathematician and the first computer programmer. It’s no surprise then that Ada Marie the character acts as an embodiment of the spirit of curiosity and scientific discovery; always viewing the world with the question of “why?” formed on her lips.

As a children’s book, this story would of course be reaching young girls (and indeed boys) at an incredibly influential age — where stereotypes of STEM subjects being “masculine” are sadly already beginning to be enforced. Ada Marie therefore provides a perfect model of a girl with limitless imagination and intelligence, whose voice of curiosity cannot be stifled and who is set on her mission to utilize science to understand her world. Even if her questions sometimes don’t provide tangible answers, she has the support and encouragement of her family to continue to try, and continue to question — a freedom all budding scientists should enjoy, regardless of gender. Ada Twist, Scientist not only champions female empowerment and women scientists but also adds a welcome element of diversity with the fact that she is a character of color.

The front cover shows her armed with safety goggles and yellow rubber gloves, pencil in hand and a quizzical expression on her face as her brother points at her in astonishment. Her pose is confident and mischievous and it looks as if she’s climbed on top of of the book’s title; similarly in the book itself she is shown escaping from her crib and clambering about her room chasing sounds and sights. What’s important here is that she is shown as intelligent, yet not serious. She has her hair tied with yellow bobbles and is wearing an orange spotted dress — the depiction of her as smart and interested in science has not come at the price of her “girlishness.” That is, she isn’t portrayed as a stereotypical “nerd.” She hasn’t been made to look boring or masculine, but rather all facets of her personality are allowed to shine through; her interest in science just happens to be one aspect of that personality. The fact that her older brother stands there bemused by her activity is not only amusing but also carries the implication that she has the capacity to surprise and out-smart other members of her family. Indeed, in the book her parents ultimately seem to follow her lead, taking inspiration from her passion and creativity to open their perception of the world.

A character brimming with fun, intelligence and perseverance, Ada Twist, Scientist is a perfect tool to remind young girls they have both the intelligence and strength to pursue their dreams.


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