Book Review: Ada Twist, Scientist

Representation matters. We know this. We know that seeing children that resemble themselves helps with self-esteem and confidence. Media children consume during their early years helps shape their ideas of what they are capable of- what they can do and be. Unfortunately, representation in children's books is abysmal. In 2015, only about 14% of children's books featured characters that were non-white. Less than 8% feature Black main characters. Less than 4% feature Asian characters. Less than 3% feature Latinx characters. Less than 1% feature First Nations or indigenous people. To put those numbers in perspective, talking animals and trucks make up just over 12% of children's book characters. 

The numbers get worse when you start tallying up girl characters. In all categories. 'Boy' is still seen in publishing circles (and others) as default- the assumption being that girls will read books about boys but not the reverse.

So. In this tiny space I have, this small little blog where I can do and say what I wish- I am choosing to do my very best to bring your attention to books featuring minorities of all stripes.  

 

With that in mind- let's talk about a book that features a Black girl scientist. "Ada Twist, Scientist" by the incomparable Andrea Beaty, is a fabulous, rhyming and delightful romp through the world of small Ada, a young girl who didn't speak a word until she was three- only to dive into why, why, why, why, why with a vengeance. 

The illustrations, by David Roberts, are absolutely lovely. 

The illustrations, by David Roberts, are absolutely lovely. 

Ada's parents, and later teacher, struggle to keep up with her as she strives to figure out the what, how, why of everything she comes across- like any good scientist. One day, Ada decides to figure out big stinks- how does the nose know something is stinky, and where does a big stink come from? She tests her hypotheses- maybe it's cabbage stew? Perhaps the cat? Until her tired parents have had enough and have her sit in the hall. 

Seriously, the illustrations are a delight. 

Seriously, the illustrations are a delight. 

So Ada sits. And thinks. And sits. And thinks. And sits and thinks and thinks and sits until she starts writing down all of her questions and answers until the hallway is covered and her parents, like good parents should, recognize their daughter's curiosity as something to be valued. 

"Ada Twist, Scientist" is by the same duo that brought us the lovely "Iggy Peck, Architect" and the absolutely stellar "Rosie Revere, Engineer" and they have not dropped the ball with their third offering. There are so few books featuring young girls of colour in STEM themes that I would, frankly, take basically any book, with even the barest hint of a plot, and without decent illustrations. Thankfully- this time I don't have to. It is a treasure, and should be in all classrooms (and homes). 

 

(This post contains affiliate links).

From Floor Bed to Crib: A Montessori Journey

One of the biggest differences between Montessori parenting and other parenting styles is that Montessorians generally advocate against having a crib. We prefer floor beds, lovely, independent spaces that our children can move in and out of at will. Pinterest is full of beautiful, serene nurseries featuring floor beds, and I spent hours planning ours. 

Our original nursery, when Noora was still in a bassinet in our bedroom and we used her bed as her movement and mobile area during the day. Pinterest worthy floor bed room.   

Our original nursery, when Noora was still in a bassinet in our bedroom and we used her bed as her movement and mobile area during the day. Pinterest worthy floor bed room.

 

I had a floor bed. A simple mattress, a fitted sheet with a cut up pool noodle along the edge so that Noora couldn’t just roll out, and a never ending supply of books, articles, and resources that kept assuring me this was the Montessori way and I couldn’t possibly go wrong.

Until we got to 11 months and Noora still didn’t sleep through the night. Ever. She woke up every 2-3.5 hours. She crawled around her room, screaming and crying, sometimes just talking but certainly not sleeping. Had she fallen asleep on the carpet regularly, I’d have been fine with that. It would have been a relief. But she didn’t. She just cried until I came in and nursed her back down.

She didn’t nap well during the day, except on day 5 of not-good napping, when she’d finally crash, sleep for 3 hours, and not go to bed until 11 or midnight. And then repeat. I was miserable. Sleep tends to exacerbate any issues one might be having, and my issues include post-partum depression. Not sleeping was killing me. 

Floor bed, nursery 2.0. Once Noora moved out of our bedroom, we moved her mirror to the playroom, added a wardrobe, and made this a baby friendly, independent space for her, so that if she crawled out of bed, she'd be able to be in here safely. 

Floor bed, nursery 2.0. Once Noora moved out of our bedroom, we moved her mirror to the playroom, added a wardrobe, and made this a baby friendly, independent space for her, so that if she crawled out of bed, she'd be able to be in here safely. 

But how could I be wrong? How could I give up on this? My entire life revolves around the Montessori world, and here I was, considering throwing out a huge chunk of the philosophy. I was considering a crib and I was wracked with guilt.

Then- relief. Permission. I walked into our baby Montessori class- a parent participation class led by a friend and colleague- and she, my friend, looked at me in a bit of alarm and asked if the sleeping was improving. And I passed her Noora and sat in the observation chair and tried not to sob and sob and sob in front of a class full of parents and children. Not normal behavior, certainly.

And my good friend, one of the most Montessori people I know, messaged me later, making sure I was still alive and safe, and told me to just get a crib. Some babies can’t handle freedom, she said, and you’re following the child. That’s Montessori. Noora can’t handle the floor bed. Montessori is your life, she said, just like me, but this isn’t helping anyone. Get a crib. 

I was almost in tears building the crib, several times. I felt like I had failed as a Montessori parent and teacher. How could I preach this if I couldn't follow it?

I was almost in tears building the crib, several times. I felt like I had failed as a Montessori parent and teacher. How could I preach this if I couldn't follow it?

And so I did. Just to see. And my child, who had never slept through the night, not once, in 11 months, slept. She woke up once. The next night, she slept. The night after that, she slept. Apparently my child can’t handle freedom. My child needed walls to feel secure.

And I breathed a sigh of relief, and I slept. And I slept. And all of a sudden it wasn’t so overwhelming, and the world wasn’t as dark, and I enjoyed parenting again. And that was huge.

So- to all my mamas out there, struggling to commit and stay committed to a philosophy, who are trying so hard to get through and be the perfect Montessori or RIE or Waldorf or attachment or whatever parent- sometimes, letting go is the best thing you can do. It’s okay. Follow the child, and you won’t go astray.

And a huge thanks to my husband, parents, and friends who helped me take care of Noora when I hadn’t slept and wasn’t capable. And a massive, eternal thanks to my pal, Christie of Aid to Life Education, for recognizing me in a bit of a crisis and giving me the permission I felt I needed to deviate from the plan. (Seriously, any parents in the Lower Mainland area should attend her classes- she's magic). 

This happy baby sleeps through the night. Will wonders never cease?

This happy baby sleeps through the night. Will wonders never cease?

What's On Our Shelves: 11 Months

What’s On Our Shelves- 11 Months

One of the aspects of Montessori that I like the most is that we offer limited, beautiful and purposeful activities for our children even at a young age. Selfishly, this means my house doesn’t feel ‘taken over’ by toys- which, as someone who has post-partum OCD and anxiety, I deeply appreciate!

This is the tiny playroom we made out of a storage closet. Enough space for everything she needs!

Noora has a small shelf in her bedroom that I’ll show in a later post, but for now I’d like to focus on her playroom. We live in a very small townhouse, but we are blessed to have a large storage closet next to her bedroom- and as we don’t have a lot to store, we were able to repurpose it as a playroom.

On the shelf (a simple IKEA Kallax- my favourite for Montessori-friendly storage), she has only a few options for work:

1)   A basket of Schleich animals; currently farm animals, though she has other Schleich animals in other baskets around the house. These aren’t cheap, but the quality of moulding and painting is worth it to me.

The quality of Schleich animals makes them a favourite of classrooms and homeschools all over. The detail on them is astonishing. 

The quality of Schleich animals makes them a favourite of classrooms and homeschools all over. The detail on them is astonishing. 

2)   A basket of sound blocks. Noora loves these and each features a different ‘filling’ and accompanying sound.

3)   A basket of balls- including perpetual favourite sensory balls; a knit ball; a felt ball, and more. Noora used to mostly mouth on these, and now is heavily into a dumping phase- she’ll spend long periods taking out and putting the balls away.

4)   Stacking cups. This has never diminished in excitement for her- it has been a consistent favourite since about 7 months.

All the expensive, organic, natural wooden toys and her favourite are $6 plastic cups. Obviously. 

All the expensive, organic, natural wooden toys and her favourite are $6 plastic cups. Obviously. 

5)   A peg and cup- the next step from the egg and cup, this work helps Noora refine her grasp. It’s from one of our favourite Montessori stores on etsy!

6)   A single shape puzzle. The single shape makes for a puzzle even a young child can do with success. Currently we have the large circle puzzle out. Mine are from ebay; they were much cheaper than the most common kind and I’m very happy with the quality.

7)   A xylophone. Noora received this high quality, lovely sounding instrument for Christmas and has been in constant use since.

8)   A shelf of books. We have books in every room Noora is in. While Montessori advocates for books based solely on realism and reality at this stage, with no fantasy, this is where I deviate a bit. We definitely have Star Wars baby books and I’m not going to pretend otherwise!

 

That’s it!. We have a foam tile mat on the floor and a large wall-mounted mirror. In the back we have a toy box full of all the stuffed animals that seem to accumulate when you have a child (every other gift ever!). While she has a shelf and areas in our bedroom, the living room and her bedroom for toys, this is her primary and largest play area.