Code Academy by Sean McManus, illustrated by Rosan Magar.
Ivy Kids / Quarto Publishing, £9.99
This is an intriguing new book to introduce coding to children – there’s no guided age on the back but I think it should appeal to KS2 / 9-11 year olds.
It is beautifully designed, with a good clear layout and attractive illustrations by Rosan Magar. It has a press-out cardboard robot in the front flap, a game poster and stickers at the back that the reader can award themselves as they progress through the exercises. This does make it less useful as a school library text book – it is designed to be written in and each section ends with a certificate that you award yourself. It would, however, make a good present for a child curious about technology and probably work best with a parent or older sibling working through it.
Topics covered include an overview of programming languages, the binary number system, Scratch and HTML, with a welcome emphasis on Scratch. The binary section is short, but strikes me as being a bit odd – it doesn’t really go anywhere and breaks up the flow of the book which builds nicely in the Scratch section through different concepts such as co-ordinates, loops, variables, selection, sprite design and music. I don’t think the binary section would be missed if it were dropped.
I think the focus on Scratch (free, child-centred, widely-supported, works on many devices) is an excellent idea, and I like the inclusion of a section on flowcharts to plan a number guessing game before coding it. It takes the reader through animation, sprite design, planning and making music in a good progression that should be easy to follow and make projects increasingly exciting for children. There is also a web site to offer support where code can be downloaded if readers get stuck.
In summary, a well-designed and well-written introduction to coding which could inspire primary-aged children to study computer science in later years, and it will provide a good support to school studies of computing. A timely release for anyone looking for a seasonal gift for a technologically-curious but inexperienced child, grand-child, niece – or for a school prize!