A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Secret Coders by Gene Yang (Boxers & Saints, American Born Chinese) is a fantasy graphic novel that teaches coding skills to elementary and middle schoolers. The main character, 12-year-old Hopper, feels out of place on her first day at a new school, but in trying to solve various puzzles, she gains confidence and makes new friends. The only violence is an attack by robot birds. This is a fine choice for families looking for books with diverse characters, as Hopper is Asian-American and her new best friend, Eni, appears to be African-American.
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What's the story?
On her first day at Stately Academy, Hopper discovers that her new school has more than its share of creepy mysteries. The building looks like a haunted house, the walls are covered with the number 9, and there are flocks of strange, four-eyed birds everywhere. Hopper has trouble fitting in with her fellow students, has a rocky relationship with her Mandarin teacher, and gets in trouble with the principal. More promising is her growing friendship with Eni, who teaches her the fundamentals of coding -- with the help of a "turtle" robot. Together, Hopper and Eni try to figure out why Stately Academy is so strange.
Is it any good?
Learning about computer coding doesn't have to be hard, serious work, as the first book in this lighthearted, educational graphic novel series proves. Writer Gene Yang and artist Mike Holmes play to each other's strengths in SECRET CODERS, devising scenes with clever dialogue and dynamic action. Unfortunately, there's a lot of setup before it's clear exactly what the stakes are for Hopper and crew. The installment ends just as the situation is getting truly interesting.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why comics and graphic novels are a good medium for education. What can they do that books with prose alone can't?
Why might it be useful to learn coding in today's economy? Which skills do software programmers need to succeed?
What does it feel like to be a new student at school? What are the best ways to make friends?
- Author: Gene Luen Yang
- Illustrator: Mike Holmes
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Adventures, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs, Robots, Science and Nature
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: First Second
- Publication date: September 29, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 96
- Available on: Paperback
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