Potions & Parameters: Secret Coders, Book 5

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Potions & Parameters: Secret Coders, Book 5 Book Poster Image
Hint of romance in funny, high-energy graphic novel.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Teaches beginning coding to elementary and middle school readers. Emphasizes the power of logic in solving problems and the fun of writing code.

Positive Messages

Difficult problems can be solved through teamwork and perseverance. Roadblocks can usually be solved by the application of logic.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hopper, Josh, and Eni make a good team. Eni is calm and logical. Josh is excitable but loyal. Hopper sometimes reacts before thinking, but she's resourceful and persistent.

Violence & Scariness

The kids are menaced by ducks with teeth and hit with code made into solid weapons.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is the fifth volume in the Secret Coders fantasy graphic novel series by Gene Yang (Boxers & SaintsAmerican Born Chinese) that teaches coding skills to elementary and middle schoolers, and it doesn't stand on its own. In this installment, the main character, 12-year-old Hopper, and her fellow coders, Josh and Eni, continue to learn programming and fight their covert war against Professor One-Zero and his mind-numbing Green Pop. The Secret Coders are menaced by ducks with teeth, but they defeat them with their coding skills. This is a fine choice for families looking for books with diverse characters, as Hopper's mother is Asian American and Hopper's new best friend, Eni, is African American.

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What's the story?

Picking up right where the earlier volume left off, POTIONS & PARAMETERS has the Coders figuring out how to escape from a horde of fanged ducks. The kids solve the puzzle, but they are no match for Professor One-Zero, who has possession of the powerful Turtle of Light and intends to enslave the world with his brain-numbing Green Pop. Reunited with their beloved teacher, Professor Bee, Hopper, Josh, and Eni learn that their only hope may lie within another dimension. This installment ends with the Coders ready to journey into Flatland.

Is it any good?

Graphic novels are an excellent way to tackle educational subjects, and this high-energy comic provides plenty of action in addition to coding lessons. Writer Gene Luen Yang and illustrator Mike Holmes balance the puzzles and the sci-fi adventure in Potions & Parameters, creating the perfect mix of instruction and comedy. The Coders meet new allies, but they also learn new things about themselves and the feelings they're developing for each other. Readers who've come this far will be eager for the next installment.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Potions & Parameters uses the graphic novel format to teaching coding. Why might comics be especially well suited to educational topics?

  • Does coding seem like a fun activity? Should computer programming be taught at all schools?

  • The relationships among the Coders are changing. How might a friendship feel different after a while?

Book details

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