Robots & Repeats: Secret Coders, Book 4

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
Robots & Repeats: Secret Coders, Book 4 Book Poster Image
Heavy on the coding, lighter on the action this time.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

In addition to its sci-fi plot, Robots and Repeats teaches beginning coding to elementary and middle school readers. Emphasizes the power of logic in solving problems.

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 Coders are stalked by a robotic cat and run afoul of some mean, sharp-toothed ducks.

Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is the fourth volume in the series begun in Secret Coders and does not stand on its own. Gene Yang (Boxers & Saints, American Born Chinese) has written a fantasy graphic novel that teaches coding skills to elementary and middle schoolers. In this installment, the main character, 12-year-old Hopper, and her fellow coders, Josh and Eni, continue their quest to find Hopper's missing father, while learning about programming. The Secret Coders are stalked by a robotic cat, but they defeat it 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, ROBOTS AND REPEATS has the Coders figuring out how to escape from a maze. They solve the puzzle, and not only are they reunited with their beloved teacher, Professor Bee, but they also take possession of the Turtle of Light, the only weapon likely to stop Dr. One-Zero. Using the Turtle takes some special skills, and Hopper, Josh, and Eni practice some exercises in logic that bring them closer to saving Stately Academy and determining the whereabouts of Hopper's missing father.

Is it any good?

Learning to code requires patience and dedication, and this latest chapter slows the story down to make sure readers understand the programming fundamentals. Nevertheless, Robots and Repeats has insight and charm to spare, as the Coders solve various puzzles and attempt to thwart the evil plans of Dr. One-Zero. Author Gene Yang invents some zany scenarios, and illustrator Mike Holmes renders them in a pleasing cartoon style. For maximum enjoyment, fans should go back and refresh their memories of lessons learned in the previous installments.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Parents can talk about how coding is presented in Robots and Repeats. Does it seem like learning to code might be a useful and fun activity?

  • Are math and science good subjects for a graphic novel? What effects is a graphic novel able to achieve that might be more difficult in words alone?

  • Eni steals a chart from Dr. One-Zero. Should kids investigate crimes on their own?

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