Kids and Race Book Club: Ada Twist, Scientist and Corduroy

by Katharine Strange

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

Picture a scientist. What does this person look like? An older white man with glasses, maybe balding, in a lab coat? Ada Twist, Scientist reimagines who can be a scientist by presenting us with the curious and adorable Ada, who simply must find out WHY. Why does the clock tick? Why are there hairs up inside of your nose? And why are there stinky smells?

This book reframes children’s natural tendency to ask questions as the beginning of their scientific careers. It’s a great example of a counternarrative—it centers a Black girl not as someone who’s oppressed, but simply as a curious and scientifically-minded kid. Centering stories of children of color (and girls of color in particular) shows all children that they are important, too.

Bottom Line: With beautiful illustrations and a fun, rhyming cadence, this book is a great read for kids of all races and their parents too.

 

Corduroy by Don Freeman

Corduroy belongs in the same category as classics such as Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day. First published in 1968, this book centers the story of Lisa, a young Black girl, and the teddy bear she buys in a department store. In a reversal of most books, the only white people in the story are the department store’s employees.

Lisa’s family is a loving, middle-class Black family who lives in an apartment. Although her apartment is not grand or opulent, it’s presented as a wonderful, cozy home. When Corduroy sees Lisa’s family’s fourth-floor walk-up, he says, “This must be home. I know I’ve always wanted a home!” In a subtle way, Corduroy makes us question the assumptions we have about Black families living in the city.

Bottom Line: Corduroy is a sweet story that offers several great counternarratives. It’s suitable for all ages and is even available in a board book for the youngest readers.