My hunt for resources to use this summer for my Beginning Game Programming camp continues. There’s no shortage of books and online tutorials and software tools, but it’s wading through it all and trying to find those needles in the haystack that really takes time. I figure when I find something new and useful there are probably others who would like to know about it. If you’ve got a young student who is showing an interest in programming, the key is to encourage but not overwhelm. Sometimes you need to sneak something educational in under the radar, right?
Well, Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes have created a fun little graphic novel that might be just what you’re looking for when it comes to introducing programming concepts without the nitty gritty of a specific programming language. The book is called Secret Coders, and the story focuses on a young girl named Hopper who has recently had to change schools. From the book’s back copy:
Welcome to Stately Academy. Hopper hates her new school. The kids are mean, the principal is scary, and there’s something creepy about the building itself. For instance: why are the walls of Stately Academy covered in the number 9?
Hopper and her friend Eni are determined to get to the bottom of it. But the mystery of Stately Academy has been programmed into its very stones, and it’ll take two persistent programmers to figure it out!
Hopper and Eni are about to become secret coders.
It’s a fun story that unfolds little by little as Hopper and Eni begin to put the puzzles together and discover one (of many) big school secret. Along the way, they’ll start to understand the concept of binary counting, command words, and loops… and find a mechanical turtle who leads them into even deeper mysteries.
The book series also has a companion website that offers up additional content such as downloadable puzzles/quiz sheets, an entry-level programming tool called UCBLogo (used by the characters in the book), and a 3D printable file of Little Guy, the robot turtle from the book.
Book 2 is called Secret Coders: Paths & Portals and will be out later in 2016. I’m very curious to know where Hopper and Eni are heading, and I’m even more curious to see where creators Yang and Holmes go with introducing more programming concepts. In the meantime, my 8-year-old budding programmer has a new book added to his stack that I think he’ll really enjoy, and I have a book to bring to the class for the kids to examine during the camp.
Note: Secret Coders is available now. Secret Coders: Paths & Portals is available for pre-orders. I was provided with a review copy of Secret Coders.