As both a parent and a children’s librarian, I am always on the lookout for books that inspire, teach, and enlighten kids while also providing a boatload of fun. Andrea Beaty’s series of STEAM-themed picture books fulfill all of these goals, and the world agrees. She is a New York Times bestseller many times over and her stories have spawned a chapter book series, project books, a Netflix show, and even a stage play based on her iconic characters: “Iggy Peck, Architect,” “Rosie Revere, Engineer,” “Ada Twist, Scientist,” “Sofia Valdez, Future Prez,” and her newest release, “Aaron Slater, Illustrator”.
Each story in this series focuses on a precocious kid with specific talent and singular focus — Iggy Peck builds with whatever he can get his hands on. Rosie Revere sees brilliant inventions in everyday odds and ends. Ada Twists asks question after question about the world around her. Using STEAM-based problem-solving skills, critical thinking, and a touch of creativity, these brainy kids solve problems in their communities, from organizing a rally for a new nature park, to filling the school’s hallway with brilliant colorful artwork, to building a makeshift bridge to rescue their stranded teacher. With engaging characters and clever rhyming to boot, these stories encourage readers to think outside the box and ask big questions. By putting the kids at the center of these problem-solving escapades, Beaty’s stories foster independence and self-confidence in readers.
Beaty’s newest book, “Aaron Slater, Illustrator,” takes a slightly different approach than her previous works by featuring a main character that is based on a real person. Aaron Douglas was an African American artist during the Harlem Renaissance movement of the 1920’s and thirties who experienced dyslexia. Like Douglas, Aaron Slater is also dyslexic and has a difficult time learning to read, and is petrified when he is assigned to write a story. His teacher, Miss Greer, encourages Aaron to tell his story a different way — through pictures. With her support, Aaron is able to use his love and talent for drawing to express himself and connect with his classmates. This positive approach to Aaron’s dyslexia normalizes this condition rather than taking a corrective stance and emboldens expressing one’s uniqueness through their art.
Beaty’s books, including the ones mentioned here, are all available for checkout in the youth department of the Lewistown Public Library.