The United Nations has named October 11 as the International Day of the Girl to honor the aspirations of girls everywhere and the organizations that work to help girls reach their full potential.
In the hopeful spirit of this day, we have a favorite book to recommend: Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, an endearing story in rhyming verse about an exuberant girl with a talent and passion for science. It’s the third in a best-selling series, with Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect, meant to cheer on children who are interested in STEM fields.
From toddlerhood, Ada loves a good “fact-finding spree,” from counting the legs on her stuffed animals, to setting off soda pop explosions at school, to seeing what noises a mockingbird will respond to. Her family has to adapt to having a small scientist in the house: “Her parents kept up with their high-flying kid/ Whose questions and chaos both grew as she did.” One afternoon Ada tries to figure the source of a terrible stink in the backyard. (The reader can help her in her investigation by looking closely at the pictures.) The aromatic mystery has Ada asking more questions: “How does a nose know there’s something to smell?/ And does it still stink if there’s no nose to tell?” Through her sniff tests and scent combinations, Ada learns not to use the family cat in her experiments, to clean up after she’s made a mess, and why working scientists need giant whiteboards. Her enthusiasm proves contagious, with her whole second-grade class investigating smelly things.
In David Roberts’ charming illustrations, some of them on graph paper, you’ll spot details like building blocks carved with abbreviations for the elements instead of letters; a book on the floor about Ada Lovelace, the first computer programmer; and sketches of the solar system that include the dwarf planets Eris, Ceres, Haumea and Makemake.
It’s a story that will delight other curious, questioning children and give a boost to little girls who love science and math. On the International Day of the Girl, here’s to girls around the globe getting the education and support they need to contribute to our understanding of the universe.