Ada Twist, Scientist

  • Ada Twist, Scientist
  • written by Andrea Beaty
  • illustrated by David Roberts
  • published by Abrams Books for Young Readers (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

There’s something about a good rhyming picture book that just hits the spot for me. And a rhyming picture book with a great message? All the better.

Look, I read a lot of picture books. Most of them are well written. Many of them are gorgeous. Some of them have sweet, memorable themes. But only a few of them are automatic winners right out of the gate.

If Ada Twist, Scientist were a person, I’d give her high-fives until her hand got sore. I’d bring her around to meet the extended family. I’d hug her until it became uncomfortable.

In other words, if any book deserves a full 5 out of 5, Ada Twist, Scientist is it.

Little Ada Twist is a late bloomer. At three years old, she tears around the house with boundless enthusiasm and energy…but no words. Her parents are concerned that she hasn’t started speaking yet. But, like rational parents, they know she’ll talk when she has something to say.

And when that time finally arrives, her words all come tumbling out in the form of questions. She wants to know What? How? Who? Where? and most importantly Why?

The entire world is bundle of mysteries, and she wants to know the answers to everything. Slowly but surely, Ada’s inherent curiosity leads her to look at the world around her with a scientific eye.

So, when she’s confronted by a terrible, unidentified stink one day, she won’t rest until she locates the source. Undaunted by failure, Ada conducts experiments, takes risks, and makes and remakes hypotheses in pursuit of the truth.

She rattled off questions and tapped on her chin.
She’s start at the start, where she ought to begin.
A mystery! A riddle! A puzzle! A quest!
This was the moment that Ada loved best.

What’s beautiful about Ada Twist, Scientist is that it conveniently wraps up several incredibly important themes into one tidy package, but it doesn’t dwell on any of them. Most kids will walk away recognizing the messages of scientific literacy, perseverance, and the importance of failure.

However, the book also champions women in scientific disciplines and is fearless in its empowerment of a young female character of color. And these themes – which are perhaps the most important – aren’t hammered home. They’re not even hinted at in the text. Because they don’t need to be.

Ada is a budding young scientist with a head full of questions. Her race and gender are inconsequential to her hopes, dreams, and aspirations. They’re irrelevant to her ability to use the scientific method and become a capable scientist.

And by not calling her out as something “special” or “extraordinary,” the book is both a powerful vehicle for representation and a story through which kids see themselves and their friends as equals. That’s its true message.

We’re all driven by curiosity. We all want to know Why? We’re all looking for the source of that stink. And Ada is our guide.

(Disclosure: Abrams provided me with a review copy of this book. All opinions remain my own.)

Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He's the founder and owner of The Roarbots and also a contributor to Syfy Wire,, and GeekDad. On top of that, he hosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates creativity in popular culture, science, and technology by talking to a wide variety of people who contribute to it.