Emmy in the Key of Code

Versify. Sept. 2019. 416p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780358040828.
Gr 5-7–On her first day at her new school in San Francisco, 12-year-old Emmy is asked to choose an elective. Although one of the options is music (the one she should want, given her opera singer mother and concert pianist father), she has always felt like a disappointment as a musician. Instead, she leaves the form blank and ends up as one of two girls in a computer programming class. At first, the class only adds to Emmy’s sense of not belonging, especially because one of the boys makes derisive noises and faces at her whenever she tries to speak. But Emmy finds that she loves her coding teacher, Mrs. Delaney. As she learns more about coding in JAVA, she discovers a way to create her own kind of music and makes a new best friend along the way. As Emmy’s computer programming classes progress, the poems integrate the JAVA terminology and syntax she has learned, until the pages begin to look like computer code that still reads like poetry. JAVA terms are also defined on separate pages within each chapter, as well as in a glossary at the end of the book. In this ambitious novel in free verse, the characters and relationships are complex and believable as Emmy struggles to understand her new best friend Abigail, her bully Francis, her teacher’s illness, and her parents’ own difficulties adapting to their new jobs. The book also touches on some of the challenges girls face in pursuing STEM-related fields, while portraying the different ways computers can be used to create something new and fun.
VERDICT This unusual tale seamlessly weaves basic computer coding concepts into a compelling story about middle schoolers struggling to forge their own identities in spite of the expectations of their families and society

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