Anyway, The Secret Coders--the first book in a new series that promises lots of fun and adventure (and CODE)—did not disappoint. And, especially as it comes during a time when a lot of effort is being put into STEM education for girls, and there are groups out there like Girls Who Code and so forth, it made me very happy to see this adventure into the world of programming being led by a (mixed race!) girl, Hopper.
It's not just about coding, though. This book is about the perennially relatable theme of being the new kid in school—and it just happens to be a school where something SUPER CREEPY is going on. Why is the shed door padlocked? Why is the janitor so crabby about them going near it? (MUST be something interesting in there.) Why do all the birds have FOUR EYES? Hopper is confronted with all of these questions at the same time that she's trying to make new friends at her new school, where nobody seems to be amused by her cool robot voice. Luckily, she does manage to find a friendly face, and her new friend Eni even helps her decode the secret of the four-eyed birds. But when the two of them find out what's in the locked garden shed, all craziness breaks loose…very, very slowly…
|Click to embiggen|
Much as I thought at the time that this was a terribly inefficient way to draw pictures, it was one of the earliest opportunities for kids in school to start learning very simple programming. I'm sure it set the right tone for me, many years later, to be unafraid to try tackling HTML and CSS. And this graphic novel brings back those memories and provides some actual coding—and decoding—fun for a new generation of readers, with try-it-yourself coding problems that you can solve right along with the characters.
Of course, this book isn't all about learning how to translate numbers in binary and learning how to command a so-called turtle (imagine the disappointment! the "turtle" was a mere triangle!) to draw geometric shapes. Hopper is an appealing and funny main character, and one of the hilarious parts of the story is watching her make friends with Eni, who then teaches her the secrets of binary and logo. Appropriately (since many a 1980s computer had those green-on-black screens), the book is printed in green and black, but don't let the simplicity of the color choices fool you: there's plenty of fun stuff going on here, and just as the story brings us to an exciting peak with robots and angry janitors and the ultimate test of the kids' coding skills (and yours, if you choose to follow along)—you're left with a cliffhanger. Until next time, kids.
|So easy, a monkey could do it!|
Conclusion: This will surely appeal to fans of other graphic novel series where kids solve the mystery of a creepy school—e.g. Gunnerkrigg Court—as well as existing fans of Gene Yang's work.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of First Second Books. You can find SECRET CODERS by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!