How to Code a Rollercoaster

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
How to Code a Rollercoaster Book Poster Image
Girl and robot use coding ideas to navigate amusement park.

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The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Clear, through intro to certain coding concepts like "variable" and "value" and sophisticated vocabulary like "microchips" in fun amsuement park setting. Some practical robot realities, like a robot needs to be rust-proof to ride a log flume ride. 

Positive Messages

Faced with a problem, take your time to think about it and figure it out before you take action. If you have a limited amount of something, you have to pay attention or you might use it all up. Coding is fun and useful. You can apply coding concepts to solve real-world problems.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Pearl is smart, kind, fun-loving, and figures out how to apply coding concepts to real life and solve problems. Her robot, Pascal, tries to be helpful. 

Violence & Scariness

At a game booth, Pascal the robot misunderstands Pear's instructions and throws a dart at a (toy) bull's eye instead of the target's bullseye.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that How to Code a Rollercoaster is the second book in a picture book series by about a girl named Pearl and her robot, Pascal, who use computer coding concepts to solve problems and get things done. It's written by Josh Funk, a professional software engineer, and illustrated by Sara Palacios, in collaboration with the nonprofit organization Girls Who Code. The concepts and coding vocabulary in this book are a bit more sophisticated than those in How to Code a Sandcastle. But the explanations are clear and kids will enjoy the appealing characters and amsusement park setting. 

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What's the story?

In HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER, Pearl ad her robot, Pascal, go to an amusement park called Gigaworld, intent on riding the Python rollercoaster. She figures applying coding concepts like "varible" and "value" will help her keep track of her tokens so she won't run out of them before she gets to the Python. But she keeps choosing to do other things -- go on rides, buy snacks, play games -- and using them up along the way. She realizes she's down to one token and needs two to ride the coaster. What will she do? 

Is it any good?

This lively picture book shows how using computer coding concepts can help you analyze a problem and apply a strategy to solve it. In the case of How to Code a Rollercoaster, the issue is keeping enough tokens so you'll be able to ride the rollercoaster by the end of your day at an amusement park. The concepts and vocabulary are sophisticated and my be hard for some kids to grasp, but Josh Funk's explanations are clear. Simple subtraction would accomplish the same goal, but this fun intro to coding adds appeal for tech-minded readers. And Sara Palcio's charming, zippy illustrations are a delight. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the coding concepts and steps in How to Code a Rollercoaster. Do you feel like you get what coding is about? Do you think you might like to be a coder someday? 

  • Do you think it would be fun to have a robot to go on adventures and solve problems with? What adventures can you imagine? 

  • Pearls almost uses up all her tokens before she gets to the rollercoaster ride. How coudl she have managed her tokens better? Have you ever had to manage tokens, tickets, or coins to make sure you had enough to last all day? How did you keep track?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love math, science, and coding

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