Coding has taken over just about every school and summer activity discussion. There are some great apps, like LightBot, which I’ve used with my own son and kids at my library, and there are dozens of libraries and organizations that offer beginner coding classes in your area. Kids are being introduced to programming languages like Scratch, and building pocket Raspberry Pi computers. Seriously, it’s a great time to be a kid.
That said, for some kids (and parents), it’s all a bit overwhelming. Where do I find all this stuff? How do I choose from all the books and programming languages out there? How do I link this to my kid’s everyday life? Fear not – Printz award-winning graphic novelist and former computer programming teacher Gene Luen Yang and Bravest Warrior’s Mike Holmes are here to help with their new graphic novel, Secret Coders.
Hopper is a tween girl who is not in love with her new school, Stately Academy. It looks like a creepy haunted house, there are weird birds, and the classes are tough. She and her Mandarin teacher are not hitting off very well, and she’s having a hard time making new friends. When she and a classmate, Nikhil, start talking about the weird things they each notice, they start making some conclusions – there are a lot of numbers hanging around Stately Academy, and figuring out how to read those numbers is the key to the mystery.
Yang and Holmes use logic puzzles and basic coding instruction to teach kids, through Hopper and Nikhil, the basics of computer code. Nikhil, for example, draws chalk columns of boxes on the ground to illustrate how binary works. As the kids’ proficiency in coding improves, they begin to unravel the mysteries of Stately Hall. Explanations are direct and simple, allowing readers to grasp the concepts of code.
This is the first of a new series, and one that should be in homes and schools everywhere. It simplifies while never dumbing-down or talking down to any readers, and illustrations make concepts click where verbiage may stumble. I expect that I’ll be ordering at least two of these at my library; my patrons gobble up coding books faster than I can order them.
Take a look at some of the pages from Secret Coders here, and get your pre-orders in! Don’t forget to check out the Secret Coders website, where you can download a coding activity worksheet, get to know the characters, and read an excerpt.
Writer: Gene Luen Yang
Artist: Mike Holmes
Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2015