Secret Coders: Paths & Portals, by Gene Luen Yang & Mike Holmes, (Aug. 2016, First Second), $10.99, ISBN: 9781626720763
Recommended for ages 8-12
We’re back at Stately Academy for more coding and mystery with with Hopper, Eni, and Josh! The last time we met the gang, they’d just figured out Stately’s secret: it used to be the campus for the Bee School, where kids learning coding and programming. Determined to learn to program and code, our fearless three find ways to get detention – custodial duties – to sneak in some coding time, but when the principal and his rugby team thugs take an interest in them, things get a little tense.
This is the second volume in the Secret Coders series from National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Gene Yang, and Bravest Warriors/Adventure Time artist Mike Holmes, and both the action and the coding lessons have increased. The characters learn more complex programming codes and requests now, taking readers along with them – and teaching them a funk prank or two in the process, including wacky names to execute commands, and programming fun ways to foil bullies. There’s some solid programming history in here, too, as we learn that Little Guy – the robot turtle and my favorite character, to be honest – speaks Logo, a programming language designed waaaay back in 1967 (may as well be in hieroglyphics to the kids, amirite?). I’m a firm believer in understanding the past to progress to the future, so giving kids that piece of programming history is amazing. The whodunit mystery adds to the fun and keeps the pages turning.
I loved the first book in this series, and evangelize it to kids right and left. I’ve done coding here at my library, and with our kids so wrapped up in Minecraft, it just seems like the smart choice to seize the opportunity and have programming information and fiction available to them wherever they turn. You can probably create a great Secret Coder program: make sure you get enough copies of each volume to have available to the kids, and introduce them to the Secret Coders website, where they can watch instructional videos and download exercises to sharpen their coding skills. They can upload finished artwork to the gallery on the site.
You’ll love Paths & Portals, and so will the kids in your life. Computer labs should consider introducing these novels to get kids familiar with and interested in coding, and libraries, like mine, that will be getting kids on board with Google CS First this summer should definitely make sure to have the first volume out and promote the second one, which hits stores on August 30: just in time for back to school!