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Western Animation / Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum

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Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum is a PBS Kids animated series based on the children's book series Ordinary People Change the World by New York Times best-selling author Brad Meltzer and illustrator Christopher Eliopoulos. This new multiplatform series will introduce kids ages 4-7 to inspiring historical figures – from Rosa Parks to Leonardo da Vinci – who will help them learn important social-emotional concepts. It premiered on November 11, 2019.

The series follows the adventures of Xavier Riddle, his sister Yadina and their friend Brad. In each episode, they face a problem and turn to the Secret Museum, a hidden room under an ordinary museum, to help them solve it. The museum allows Xavier, Yadina and Brad to travel back in time to meet real-life historical figures when they were kids. They witness pivotal moments that shaped each of these iconic people and learn social-emotional lessons – such as being resilient in the face of adversity and making and accomplishing goals. Each episode is designed to help viewers make the connection between the attributes that made each historical figure a hero, and those same attributes within themselves, while approaching history in an engaging, age-appropriate manner. Each episode of the show will include two animated 11-minute stories with accompanying interstitial content.


Produced at Brown Bag Films' Toronto studio, executive producers on the series are Vince Commisso, Brad Meltzer, Christopher Eliopoulos, Fonda Snyder and Rob Weisbach. The series is directed by Cory Bobiak (Peg + Cat), with Meghan Read (Dot., Dino Dan) in the role of executive story editor. The look of the show is based on Christopher Eliopoulos’ illustrations featured in the Ordinary People Change the World series.


This show provides examples of:

  • Aerith and Bob: Downplayed. Xavier and Brad are normal names; Yadina, not so much.
  • All for Nothing: In "I Am Johann Sebastian Bach", the kids travel miles by foot to see a concert that Bach really wanted to go to, but only see a snippet of it before Bach runs off to work on his song. Yadina points out how dumb this idea was.
  • Ambiguously Bi:
    • Yadina has blushed at both Kid!George Washington (male) and Kid!Sally Ride (female). Granted, she's too young to know, but still.
    • Brad is blatantly attracted to girls, such as Catherine the Great, but he has camp mannerisms, and his blushy awkwardness isn't limited to girls. In "I Am Catherine the Great", he has a strong bond with Matthias, and although he did not blush, he acted awkward around Confucius in "I Am Confucius". The most glaring example is when he blushed at Cesar Chavez's brother Lenny in "I Am Cesar Chavez" when being handed water by him for absolutely no damn reason.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Xavier and Yadina have brown skin, but their ethnicity is unknown, though one episode, I Am Tomioka Tessai, implies they have mixed ancestry.
  • An Aesop: Every episode has a lesson supplied by the historical figure featured in it.
  • And Knowing Is Half the Battle: At the end of each episode, the trio addresses the viewers at home and repeat the moral of the story.
  • Animated Adaptation: Of the Ordinary People Change the World books.
  • Arc Number: The numbers 27 and 42 appear frequently throughout the show and the books. Brad Meltzer has stated that 42 is for Jackie Robinson's uniform number, but has explicitly refused to state what the 27 stands for.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • Although the show does its best to be historically accurate, there are some parts that were clearly made up, like Florence Nightingale having a pet mouse note , Harry Houdini idolizing a tightrope walker named Fearless Jean, etc.
    • Because the story segments don't have enough time for it, the show does not get into the issue of pseudonyms and married names vs. birth names. Therefore, the child Mark Twain is shown as going by the name "Mark Twain" even though he was still using his given name "Samuel Clemens" at that age; and the child Abigail Adams is addressed as "Abigail Adams" even though she was "Abigail Smith" until she got married.
  • Author Avatar: Brad is based on Brad Meltzer.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Xavier Riddle is definitely an awesome name in its own right.
  • Ballet: "I Am Anna Pavlova" is all about ballet, and in the opening sequence, the kids don tutus and ballet slippers and try to be graceful when dancing.
  • Ballet Episode: "I Am Anna Pavlova", which is all about a ballet dancer.
  • Baseball Episode:
    • "I Am Jackie Robinson", which is all about a baseball player.
    • Also, "I Am Lou Gehrig."
  • Been There, Shaped History: Xavier, Yadina, and Brad are all present at famous moments of history, such as Amelia Earhart flying across the Atlantic.
  • Bearded Baby: Despite the historical heroes being kids when the trio meets them, some of them have beards like Charles Dickens and Leonardo da Vinci. This is presumably done to make them more recognizable to the audience in the show's art style.
  • Big Damn Movie: "I Am Madam President."
  • "Billy Elliot" Plot: "I Am Billie Jean King" has Brad worried about being the only boy in the school ballet class, but he learns that it's okay to like traditionally feminine things and that girls and boys can do the same things.
  • Bizarre Taste in Food: In "I Am Neil Armstrong", Xavier is seen making different sandwiches with weird food combinations.
  • Black Bead Eyes: All these characters have these type of eyes.
  • Blinding Bangs: Tyler from "I Am Marie Owens" has his eyes covered by his hair.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Marie Owens has very short hair, and isn't all that feminine.
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: In "We Are the Wright Brothers", Brad says Xavier's Catchphrase — "To the Secret Museum!"
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In the opening and closing sequences, the characters talk to the viewer. Luckily, there's no Fake Interactivity.
  • Brother–Sister Team: Xavier and Yadina.
  • Brought to You by the Letter "S": The X on Xavier's hoodie stands for Xavier.
  • But Not Too Gay: So far, the show has two LGBT heroes - Sally Ride and Billie Jean King. However, their respective appearances don't talk about their sexuality. It could be because it's not relevant to the plot, or because of the risk of being banned by Moral Guardians in Alabama like Arthur. For what it's worth, Harvey Milk is going to be in an episode according to storyboards posted on someone's website, and since he was a gay rights activist, talking about his sexuality is inevitable.
  • Butt-Monkey: Brad. He always gets dizzy while time traveling, and doesn't want to go back in time yet is always dragged along. Not to mention that in "I Am Susan B. Anthony", Xavier and Yadina wouldn't let him have a say on what should go where in the Secret Museum, and in "I Am Alexander Graham Bell", he loses his voice and Xavier and Yadina do all the talking for him instead of listening to him.
  • The Cameo:
    • Helen Keller made one in "I Am Alexander Graham Bell", as she is a student in his class.
    • George Washington made one in "I Am Alexander Hamilton."
    • Abraham Lincoln made cameos in "I Am Frederick Douglass" and "I Am Kate Warne".
  • Character Name and the Noun Phrase: The show's title.
  • Chromatic Arrangement: Xavier (Red hoodie), Brad (Green unbuttoned jacket), Yadina (Blue shirt).
  • Companion Cube: Yadina has a stuffed turtle named Dr. Zoom, who she loves very much. Berby also plays with Dr. Zoom like they're buddies.
  • Crush Blush: In "I Am George Washington", Yadina keeps blushing around Kid!George Washington. Along with the fact that she constantly gushes about how great he is, this hints that she may have a crush on him.
  • The Cutie: Xavier, Yadina, and Brad are all little kids with likable personalities, adorable designs, signature quirks, and great ambitions.
  • A Day in the Limelight: "I Am Madam President" is driven by Yadina's ambition to become the first female President of the United States. Interestingly, this is also the show's first Extra-Long Episode.
  • Determinator: In "I Am Marie Curie", Marie doesn't let sexist rules stop her from following her dream, as she goes to a secret girls' university and starts her own lab to learn more about science.
  • Didn't Think This Through: In the "Race Around the World" segments with Xavier and Berby, Xavier always chooses snazzy-looking modes of transportation without first considering that those modes of transportation might not be practical for a race (like the Wright Flyer) or that they might not work at all (like the Da Vinci Ornithopter).
  • Disney Death: In "I Am Madam President", Berby eventually runs out of gas, and when the gang goes to meet Sally Ride, she dies and drifts off into space. Luckily she comes back to life when Yadina saves her.
  • Dreadful Musician: Xavier at first in "I Am Johann Sebastian Bach", as he plays "Hot Cross Buns" on the recorder off-key.
  • Edutainment Show: This show teaches about history and social-emotional concepts.
  • Episode Tagline: Each episode's tagline is the mantra taught by the historical figure encountered in the episode. For example, the Cleopatra episode's tagline is "Ask for things the right way".
  • Every Episode Ending: Every episode ends with the kids back in the white void (like in the episode's cold open), and they thank the viewer for joining their awesome adventure to meet the episode's historical hero. They all say their names, and pledge to exhibit the virtues of the hero.
  • Expy: Brad can be this to Sean Rafferty from Ready Jet Go!.
  • Extra-Long Episode: "I Am Madam President" is 58 minutes long.
  • Feud Episode: Xavier and Yadina have a sibling fall-out in both "I Am Maya Angelou" and "I Am Confucius".
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: In "I Am Jackie Robinson", Jackie's mom says his full name, Jack Roosevelt Robinson.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: The characters only have four fingers on their hands.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Yadina wears her hair like this.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: Yadina has a stuffed turtle named Dr. Zoom, who she loves very much.
  • Gratuitous Spanish: "Si, se puede!" is uttered in the Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta episodes.
  • Growling Gut: This happened to Yadina twice in "I Am Neil Armstrong".
  • Heel–Face Turn: Sarah, the racist little girl, undergoes this in "I Am Jackie Robinson", when Jackie (who she was mean to) shows her kindness. This also happens to Brian, the kid who wouldn't let Yadina play on the swings.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Bobby Riggs from "I Am Billie Jean King" is depicted as an overly masculine misogynist bully who thinks he can beat Billie Jean at tennis. He's wrong; she won the Battle of the Sexes.
  • Hiccup Hijinks: The episode "I Am Florence Nightingale" has Yadina get hiccups on the day she plans to give a school report on cookies. Everyone then goes back in time to get help from Florence Nightingale. At the end, she then decides to do her report on hiccups, and she's cured.
  • Historical Domain Character: Xavier, Yadina, and Brad often go back in time and meet famous people of history when they were children, such as Rosa Parks and Leonardo da Vinci, who help them learn important lessons.
  • Iconic Item: Each one of the historical heroes has an artifact that belonged to them that is featured.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Much like the books, the episode titles from this series start with "I Am" and the name of the historical figure featured in it, save for the Extra-Long Episode "I Am Madam President" since it features four historical figures.
  • I Do Not Like Green Eggs and Ham: In "I Am Neil Armstrong", Yadina thinks she won't like a cheese and marmalade sandwich, but when she tries it, she likes it.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: In "I Am Johann Sebastian Bach", Yadina makes a pun based on Bach's name, but Brad and Xavier don't think it's funny.
  • Innocently Insensitive:
    • In "I Am Susan B. Anthony", Xavier and Yadina are so used to tending to the Secret Museum themselves that they unintentionally leave Brad out and don't let him have a say on what should go where.
    • In "I Am Alexander Graham Bell", Xavier and Yadina keep talking for Brad when he loses his voice instead of listening to him.
  • In Touch with His Feminine Side: Brad loves traditionally feminine things such as butterflies and ballet.
  • Jewish and Nerdy: Brad is Jewish, as revealed in "I Am Tomioka Tessai"note , and is a huge nerd due to his love of comics, knowledge of butterflies, and good math skills (judging by how he always accurately calculates how many years back in time the kids will go).
  • The Leader: "I Am George Washington" is about this trope. Yadina is picked to lead the Nature Troop, but proves to be a bad leader. The kids turn to the Secret Museum for help, and meet George Washington, who shows Yadina how to be a great leader.
  • Limited Wardrobe: All the characters wear the same clothes most of the time. In fact, in "I Am Lou Gehrig", it's implied that Xavier has more than one of his signature red alien antennae hoodies.
  • Long Title: Downplayed. The show's title is longer than average.
  • Lost Voice Plot: In "I Am Alexander Graham Bell", Brad loses his voice and tries to make Xavier and Yadina listen to him to tell them what game he wants to play.
  • Luminescent Blush: Characters blush a lot in the show, usually from embarrassment or happiness.
  • Meganekko: Mary Leakey wears glasses as a child in "I Am Mary Leakey", as does Junko Tabei in "I Am Madam President" and Billie Jean King in "I Am Billie Jean King".
  • Mistakes Are Not the End of the World: A key lesson taught in "We Are the Wright Brothers", and briefly in "I Am Anna Pavlova".
  • Mundane Utility: The Secret Museum uses its time travel powers to teach Xavier, Yadina, and Brad valuable life lessons, but sometimes the life lesson seems a bit too mundane to warrant time travel. For example, the Museum sends the trio to meet the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong... for the purpose of getting Yadina to try marmalade.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: In "I Am Susan B. Anthony", Xavier and Yadina have this reaction when they realize they've been unfair to Brad by not letting him have a vote on what should go where in the Secret Museum.
  • Nerd Glasses: Brad wears these types of glasses.
  • Nice Girl: Marie Owens stands out in this regard. She doesn't get mad when someone does something wrong and prefers to solve problems in a positive way.
  • Nice Hat:
    • Jackie Robinson wears a blue baseball cap.
    • Eleanor Roosevelt wears a fancy purple hat.
    • Theodore Roosevelt wears a hat, which is also his artifact.
    • Marie Owens wears a cowboy hat.
    • Nellie Bly wears a journalist hat.
    • Kate Warne wears a cowboy hat.
    • Charlie Chaplin wears a bowler hat.
  • No Antagonist: Zig-zagged. While the show doesn't have an overarching main antagonist, there are some antagonists that pop up in the hero's travels through time. Like the slavemaster in "I Am Harriet Tubman", and Bobby Riggs in "I Am Billie Jean King".
  • Oh, Crap!: Brad has this reaction every time the kids travel through time.
  • Once an Episode: You can count on these things being a constant:
    • Brad being hesitant to travel back in time.
    • The kids going to the Secret Museum in a weird way, like via a tornado.
    • The kids saying their catchphrases.
    • The time travel sequence, where Yadina makes a meditation pose and Brad spins around.
  • One Steve Limit: So far, there are 2 Alexanders (Graham Bell and Hamilton), 2 Marys (Shelley and Leakey), 2 Georges (Washington and Washington Carver), 2 Maries (Curie and Owens), and 2 Arthurs (Conan Doyle and Ashe).
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Sarah from "I Am Jackie Robinson", who is racist until she changes her ways. Also, the bus driver from the Rosa Parks episode.
  • The Pollyanna: Lou Gehrig. Even when the going gets tough, he focuses on the good stuff, which he teaches Xavier, Yadina, and Brad.
  • Pretty Butterflies: Brad utterly adores butterflies for this exact reason. In "I Am Marie Curie", as he tells Marie about how much he loves butterflies, he imagines a flock of butterflies flying around him.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: In "I Am Johann Sebastian Bach", a bit of "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" is played.
  • Puppy Love: In "I Am George Washington", Yadina gets a crush on Kid!George Washington. Obviously, both of them are kids.
  • Rhymes on a Dime: A lot of rhymes are made in "I Am Mark Twain." For example, "We didn't notice the fence got done/We were having too much fun!"
  • Robot Buddy: Berby, who helps the kids time travel, and is shown in between episodes playing with them.
  • Rousseau Was Right: The show teaches us, among other things, that everyone is good deep down. In fact, the book series that the show was based on, Ordinary People Change the World, did a book about Anne Frank, who reaffirms her belief that people are truly good at heart.
  • Running Gag: Yadina trying to blow her whistle in "I Am George Washington".
  • Scout-Out: Xavier, Yadina, and Brad are part of the Nature Troop, which is seen in a few episodes.
  • Secondary Sexual Characteristics: To make them more recognizable, the child versions of male historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci and Mark Twain are generally depicted with mustaches and beards similar to those that the actual historical figures had, even though the child versions are way too young to have facial hair.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Brad is the Sensitive Guy to Xavier's Manly Man. Brad is very shy and sensitive, and loves ballet and butterflies, while Xavier is more traditionally masculine and more outgoing.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: Aside from a few cases of Artistic License – History, the show does have a lot of research and accuracy put into it. For example, Helen Keller and the water pump, the Bronte Sisters' made up world called Glass Town, George Washington Carver's secret garden, Amelia Earhart's homemade roller coaster, Zora Neale Hurston's characters named Miss Corn Shuck and Mr. Sweet Smell, etc.
  • Silent Treatment: In "I Am Lou Gehrig", Yadina gives Dr. Zoom the silent treatment because she's mad at her.
  • Start My Own: In "I Am Marie Curie", since the girls of Poland aren't allowed to go to university, they start their own university where they can learn more about science. Brad takes inspiration from this idea and starts a butterfly club for people under 10.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Referenced a few times in the show. In "I Am Marie Curie", Marie isn't allowed to go to university because she's a girl. In "I Am Susan B. Anthony", Susan says that at her time, only men could vote.
  • Strictly Formula: All the episodes have the same format. One of the characters has a problem, so the gang goes to the Secret Museum for help. Brad always protests against going there, but is made to come along anyways. The kids access the Secret Museum in a certain way (that can differ from episode to episode) such as through a dinosaur mouth or by posing in an Egyptian exhibit, etc. Then, they slide down the pole, in the exact same order: Xavier, Yadina, and Brad.note  The Secret Museum presents them with an artifact from the person they're going to meet, shows a hologram of the person, and shows the location and year. Berby delivers the kids back in time, where they meet the person. The person helps the focus character solve their problem by delivering the Aesop of the episode, multiple times, until the focus character gets it. When they get it, the kids decide to go back home, where they solve their problem.
  • Suddenly Speaking: Helen in "I Am Helen Keller" when she says her dog's name for the first time, Belle.
  • Sweet Home Alabama: In "I Am Zora Neale Hurston", the kids travel back in time to Florida, where Zora Neale Hurston is. Everyone there is super polite.
  • Tears of Joy: Brad cries these tears after Xavier gives an amazing performance at the school talent show in "I Am Johann Sebastian Bach"." He does this again at the end of "I Am Madam President" after Yadina thanks Xavier for making her part of their new exhibit on the female heroes they visited. He does it yet again at the end of "I Am Nellie Bly" after Yadina gets bold enough to climb the monkey bars and Xavier congratulates her for it.
  • That Cloud Looks Like...: The kids do this in "I Am Mary Shelley".
  • Theme Tune Cameo: Xavier briefly hums the show's theme tune at one point in "I Am Madam President".
  • The Teaser: Before the main story of each episode starts, the episodes open with Xavier, Yadina, and Brad (in a white void) greeting the viewer and introducing the hero that they're going to meet.
  • Thanking the Viewer: Every episode ends with Xavier, Yadina, and Brad thanking the kids watching at home for joining them on their adventures.
  • ¡Three Amigos!: Xavier, Yadina, and Brad.
  • Time Travel: The show's M.O.
  • Title, Please!: No episode titles are given in the show.
  • Token White: Brad is the only white character of the main cast.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Yadina's is a cheese and jelly sandwich.
  • Tutu Fancy: In the opening sequence to "I Am Anna Pavlova", Yadina wears a tutu.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Xavier and Brad are boys, and Yadina is a girl.
  • Very Special Episode: The half-hour special, "I Am Harriet Tubman", tackles slavery. It also first premiered in primetime.
  • We All Live in America: The TV movie has Yadina heartbroken to learn there's never been a female U.S. president, despite the show being produced in Canada, France, and Ireland. All three countries, for better or worse, have had at least one female leader each.
  • Wide Eyes and Shrunken Irises: The characters get these sort of eyes in extreme emotions like fear, anger, etc. This is just one example.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Owing to Brad's Jewish heritage, he often says "Oy vey" when he's frustrated, exhausted, or worried.
  • You Go, Girl!: The Billie Jean King episode shows Billie Jean working hard at playing tennis and eventually beating Bobby Riggs in the Battle of the Sexes, proving to the whole world that girls and boys can do the same things.

Thank you for joining our awesome adventure to read this page. That is made by a troper, just like you and me. So tropers like you can change the world. I am Yadina. I am Brad. I am Xavier, and I know that TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life, just like this page.


Video Example(s):


Xavier and Yadina's Sandwiches

In the episode "I am Neil Armstrong," Xavier Riddle comes up with new and weird sandwich ideas. His sister, Yadina, sticks to the also bizarre cheese and jelly sandwiches.

How well does it match the trope?

4.33 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / BizarreTasteInFood

Media sources:

Main / BizarreTasteInFood