Posted in Guide, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Create your own Scratch games with Scratch Coding Cards!

scratchcodingcards_coverScratch Coding Cards, by Natalie Rusk, MIT Lab Scratch Team, (Dec. 2016, No Starch Press), $24.95, ISBN: 97-1-59327-774-1

Recommended for ages 8+

Better than flash cards, these Scratch coding cards teach users to design:

  • virtual pets that can eat, drink, and play;
  • games where you can catch things falling from the sky;
  • animated dance scenes with music and dance moves;
  • a bouncing ball game with sounds, points, and other effects;
  • characters that you can dress up with different clothes
  • stories, where you can choose characters, add conversations, and bring your story to life;
  • hide and seek games with characters that disappear;
  • a music program, where you choose instruments, add sounds, and press keys to play music;
  • a game where two characters race one another, and
  • a program that will animate the letters of your name.

Each activity comes with a set of cards, walking users through each action in the process. Every card is fully illustrated and includes screenshots and brief, clear text. I spent the better part of an afternoon creating Pong-type games with my 13 year old when I received my cards to review, and I’m going to start working with my 4 year-old on making up a story using Scratch. I’ve even gushed about these cards to the Collection Development group at my library system, because I love these cards so much.

Librarian or teacher? These cards are a class/program in themselves. Parent, or just interested in learning how to code? You can’t beat these cards for teaching and learning block coding.

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Posted in Fiction, geek, Guide, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Holiday Book Shopping: Science and Tech

Books make fantastic holiday gifts! Need a stocking stuffer or are stumped by a kid who has seemingly everything? Try one of these!

I am guilty of favoring books in the STEM/STEAM areas, because that’s what I love evangelizing to my own kids and the kids at my libraries. Take a look – you don’t need to be a Stephen Hawking-in-the-making to enjoy these.

scratch-playgroundScratch Programming Playground, by Al Sweigart, (Oct. 2016, No Starch Press), $24.95, ISBN: 978-1593277628

Recommended for Ages 8-12

I love working with Scratch for young coders. It’s all about teaching kids how to computer code using interconnecting blocks of code, and the Scratch program, developed at MIT, is free and available online. Scratch Programming Playground walks kids (and grownups – I used this book extensively while putting together programs for this coming winter) through the process of learning Scratch by making cool games, like Fruit Slicer (a Fruit Ninja clone), Brick Breaker (where my ’80s friends at?), and Asteroid Breaker (Asteroids! Remember that one?). There are tons of full-color visuals and step-by-step breakdowns that will have kids programming in no time. I buy No Starch books for my libraries all the time – they’re great to have on hand.

 

how-things-workHow Things Work, by T.J Resler (Oct. 2016, National Geographic Kids), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2555-7

Recommended for ages 7-12

Know a kid who’s constantly taking everything apart to see how it works? This is the book for her or him. It’s loaded with gadgets and how they work; fun facts; in-depth pieces on technology and how it works; profiles of scientists and innovators, and yes, experiments that are totally safe to try at home (with adult supervision, please). Learn how a tablet really works, how an aquarium works to keep fish healthy and happy, even how a toilet works, complete with diagram. Design a roller coaster with your kids – it’s easier than you think! Because it’s a NatGeo Kids book, you know the writing is great; it speaks to kids in easy, clear, fun language that educates and never talks over their heads or down to them. The photos are amazing, and the dog on a surfboard (page 131) is worth the cost of the book all on its own.

science-encyclopediaScience Encyclopedia: Atom Smashing, Food Chemistry, Animals, Space, and More!, by National Geographic Kids, (Oct. 2016, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2543-4

Recommended for ages 8-13

I know, it’s a NatGeo Kids lovefest right now, but it’s well-deserved. The Science Encyclopedia is info-packed with everything kids need to know about physical and life sciences, covering matter, energy, electronics, the universe, and more. There are record breakers, key dates in atomic science, and activities to try at home. Information is presented in 2-page spreads broken out into subject-specific blocks, with stunning photos, fun facts, and hilariously bad jokes (Where does bad light go? A prism!) A glossary, index, and additional resources round this volume out. Fantastic gift for any tween who wants to know more about everything.

 

These are all available now, either in your local bookstore or online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, or IndieBound.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Non-fiction

Coding Projects in Scratch: Step up your coding game

coding projects in scratchCoding Projects in Scratch, by Jon Woodcock, (July 2016, DK Children), $19.99, ISBN: 9781465451422

Recommended for ages 8-12

Scratch is one of the best programs to start kids out on their coding education. Using block programming, kids can drag and drop chunks of code that interlock to run all sorts of operations. Coding Projects in Scratch is a step-by-step, fully illustrated guide to creating projects that use movement and sound.

The best part about Scratch is that it’s free. Go to the Scratch site, create a free account, and have this book next to you. I sat at my desk and was able to create a dinosaur dance party, a cat that changed sizes and colors, and I even got some sound effects into my animations. You can download Scratch if you want to work online, but – and the book will remind you throughout – save your work!

The book is split into several parts: an explanation of coding, resources to get you started, art projects, games, simulations, music and sound, mindbenders, and a What Next? section that takes you beyond Scratch into other programming fun. Callout boxes throughout the book offer extra tips, information, and on-the-spot explanations of different terms and lingo. A glossary and an index complete the package to present a great resource for kids and adults who are ready to start coding, or maybe kids who got their first taste of coding through a program like Hour of Code and want to learn more.

All in all, there are 18 projects to explore here, including a birthday card, “tunnel of doom” multiplayer game, and a dinosaur dance party (with an optional ballerina). I’ve been pushing coding pretty heavily here at my library, and trying to get my mouse potato tween to get into coding so he can do something other than go on Warcraft raiding parties.

Add this book to your coding library, whether it’s a home, school, or institutional collection.