Secret Coders

illus. by Mike Holmes. 91p. First Second. Sept. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781626722767.
Gr 4–8—A mysterious school, transition to mastery, and an exciting new language run through this excellent new graphic novel. But it's not magic wands that dictate the new characters' skills —it's coding. Hopper, an enthusiastic 12-year-old girl (named after programmer Grace Hopper), has just started school at the creepy Stately Academy. After getting in a fight that involves "lung pudding" (a loogie!) with Eni (based on NBA star Chris Bosh), Hopper and Eni become friends while unraveling the secrets of the school. Robotic birds, family troubles, and sinister, child-hating school administrators lead to a story both emotionally rich and rife with learning opportunities. Readers will feel themselves thinking in a new way as they watch Hopper and Eni transform into coders on a mission, but the story never feels pedantic. The graphic novel format is effective and will appeal to everyone from computer lovers to reluctant readers to mystery fans. The black and green art is effective and straightforward, and the pacing of the panels is excellent. The book is important in light of issues of diversity in the computer programming world; Hopper is biracial, and Eni is African American, and both have multiple dimensions to their characters (they are more than just computer nerds). This first volume ends on a cliff-hanger with real life magic: the magic of coding made accessible.
VERDICT An excellent first purchase that introduces readers to the power of computer programming through an engaging graphic mystery.—Lisa Nowlain, Darien Library, CT
, Sep 01, 2015

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