How To Code A Sandcastle (Josh Funk)

Hello, friends! Our book today is How To Code A Sandcastle, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Sara Palacios, a wonderful introduction to computer language as part of Girls Who Code’s book series.

Pearl is excited: today is the last day of summer, and her last opportunity to build the sandcastle of her dreams. She’s tried before, but various frisbee-, surfboard-, and dog-related incidents have impeded her work. But today, she’s brought her trusty robot Pascal to help her. Pearl expects that Pascal will be a very helpful addition, but she has to give him instructions in “code” – specific programming language that machines understand. Using methods such as detailed instructions for finding a site, using a looped sequence for gathering sand, and an IF-THEN-ELSE for finding decorations, Pearl and Pascal are able to create a lovely sandcastle. But when they are gathering the finishing touches, high tide sneaks up and washes away their work! Pearl is momentarily dispirited, but she quickly has a flash of inspiration: building a moat will protect the castle! So using her recycled code from the first castle and a new command for moat-building, Pearl and Pascal set their sights on not just one castle, but a whole sand kingdom.

LOVED this! What a clever and fun way to introduce the language of computer science to little readers. The way the basic concepts are translated into child-friendly examples is inspired, with an appendix that goes into the commands with more detail. The illustrations are fun, bright, and fit the tone and subject matter perfectly. And I especially loved that, as a book that encourages ALL kids to explore computer science, Pearl is not only a girl but a POC as well. The length is great, JJ loved it, and this one was just wonderful! Baby Bookworm approved!

Albie Newton (Josh Funk)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Albie Newton, written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Ester Garay, the story of a boy genius and his classmates learning how to be friends.

Albie isn’t quite like other kids. When he learned his numbers, he cried because he couldn’t count to infinity. He likes to learn a new language every week: English, Spanish, Hindi – even Klingon! Still, Albie is a friendly and happy young man, and excited to start his first day at a new school. When he hears his new classmates sing their morning song about friendship, Albie decides that he will invent a special gift to ingratiate himself to the others. Unfortunately, while Albie is obviously quite brilliant, he lacks social skills, and his habit of taking things without asking and overshadowing others with his work begins to upset the other children. But classmate Shirley convinces other kids to be patient with Albie – he means well, he just thinks differently. And sure enough, by day’s end, Albie has built them a gift that is astoundingly one-of-a-kind.

I liked this a lot. Albie does indeed do things that are generally perceived as rude. But the thing is, as smart as Albie is, he doesn’t understand that what he’s doing is unacceptable – he’s just trying to make a nice gift for his new friends. To me, this reads as an allegory for children with ASD or social/developmental disorders, and an effective one at that. It’s a good way of encouraging children with these disorders to consider how others may perceive their actions, and encourages children without them to be patient with their friends who may think or act differently from them. The illustrations are adorable and charming, and filled with clever details. The length was great, JJ enjoyed it, and we’re definitely calling this one Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)