I’ve always been a sucker for a scientist. Dr. Fauci? Living legend. Jane Goodall? G.O.A.T. Einstein? Hair Goals.
So I was nerdily-delighted to discover that Ada Twist, Scientist, the beloved, bestselling (and feminist) children’s book, has been adapted into a Netflix series. Parents, you can finally feel guilt-free about plopping your kids down in front of the TV (unless of course, they’re eating dinner, and that’s the only way you can trick them into ingesting vitamins. Then, you can feel semi-guilty).
The gist: Ada is an inquisitive, enthusiastic, science-obsessed 8-year-old with big questions about the world and a passion to discover the answers. She’s got two cute sidekicks, Rosie Revere and Iggy Peck, an engineer, and architect, respectively. Rounding out the cast are Ada’s affectionate parents, big brother, Arthur (whose hi-top fade is giving me all kinds of 80’s Hip Hop Vibes a la Kid ‘N Play), and an obligatorily-adorable pet cat named Mooshu.
The storylines are relatable and often inspirational. In an endearing episode called “Cake Twist,” by writer and co-executive producer, Kerri Grant, our girl, Ada, decides to make her dad’s famous chocolate surprise cake for her parents’ anniversary because her working mom forgets and is on a tight deadline for her job. With her buddies by her side, but no recipe in sight, Ada and her crew test out measurements and learn all about one of the most ubiquitous items in your fridge: baking soda. “We’re showing that there’s science in the everyday —that science is everywhere,” says Grant.
There’s even a cool “Let’s Meet Another Scientist” segment that flips to footage with actual humans. “It turns out that there’s a lot of science in cake-making. We found a real-life dessert-anthropologist who we feature at the end of that episode,” says Grant. Enter Lasheeda Perry, a pastry chef and entrepreneur who shares her expertise and Jeopardy-ready fun facts like: baking soda is also used in fire extinguishers. (Who knew?!)
This show is sweet without being saccharine. Educational (and interesting!), without shoving STEM down your throat. The inherent “lessons” are organic, not pedantic with charming little truth bombs, like: “Sprinkles are never a disaster.”
There’s also seamlessness and nuance I really appreciate, a delicate understanding of children’s emotions. Small moments of inclusion and empathy, such as when Iggy divulges that his parents are likely divorced. “My parents don’t live together,” he shares tenderly when the trio are brainstorming gifts for Ada’s parents’ anniversary.
Like most high-quality kids’ programming, this show understands that parents are the (often captive) shadow audience, forced to endure vapid kiddie-TV because it’s the only way their offspring will still snuggle with them on the couch. So high-five to the Ada Team for coming through on that Clever Factor, with much-appreciated winks to adults and the inclusion of those nods to interests in our un-animated worlds. Look out for the 12 Angry Birds episode, “in which things unfold like a courtroom drama—similar to Law & Order, but for preschoolers,” says Grant. She also touts the creative freedom at Netflix, which allows the show to get away with “edgier” content that might not fly on other networks. An episode like “The Great Stink,” as the title suggests, has our mini scientists track down the source of a super funky smell.
Over the past year, there has been a remarkable push to include more diversity in children’s books and entertainment, and to create and disseminate Anti-racist reading lists, especially. It’s important to remember that Anti-racist initiatives don’t only educate and amplify voices as they pertain to the pain of the black experience, they also celebrate black excellence. It’s fantastic and necessary to see this depiction of a young protagonist of color, who is also a science-loving girl. This was a deliberate intention by the show’s team to be thoughtful and proactive to challenge the underrepresentation that is persistent in Hollywood. ”Ada Twist has the power to change the landscape in children’s media. It’s so cool to see a little Black girl in the lead role and as a scientist. I have been seeing parents sharing images of their Black daughters saying, Ada looks just like me.” I want little girls everywhere to see themselves in Ada,” says Grant.
The most touching aspect of the show is definitely the portrayal of the Twists as an incredibly loving and fun family—the kind you wish you were a part of. Ada’s lovey-dovey parents are particularly heartwarming and well-rendered. “In most children’s shows parents don’t have their own personalities, but they do in Ada Twist. I love how we share the love story between the parents,” says Grant. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the show is executive produced by one of the by one of the most famous and aspirational couples of all time: Barack and Michelle Obama.
Now that Ada Twist, Scientist is at the tip of your Netflix fingertips, you finally have a great excuse to RSVP a big’ ol “NOPE” to yet another mad science kids’ birthday party. (Hypothesis: is it just me or do most of those creepy fake-scientist dudes give off major Comp Lit Major Vibes, seem pretty hungover, and kind of like they hate children?). Whether you’re on a mission to raise a future Nobel Prize Winner in Astrophysics, or you just want to get a jump start on that tri-fold cardboard Science Fair thingamajig (you never intended to be glue-gunning at 2 am), this show’s got smarts and heart. The beauty of Ada Twist, Scientist is that it’s not even so much about science, as it is a love letter to wonder and intellectual curiosity. And I’m 100 percent here for the show’s hidden mission —to embarrass our children with some harmless Parental PDA.