Graphic Novel Review- Secret Coders Series

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I love graphic novels, books about gaming, and books that promote problem solving.

Other Gene Luen Yang Graphic Novels

When I was in the English classroom, one of my favorite books to recommend to students was Gene Luen Yang’s Level Up. I loved it and so did my freshmen students. It was one of those books that I could hand to a hesitant reader and they would just gobble it up! American Born Chinese was also a favorite because it was such a quirky bildungsroman story about being an awkward teenager. Even though it is about being a Chinese American, the heart of the book is about being uncomfortable in your own skin. (AND ISN’T THIS WHAT EVERY TEENAGER FEELS?!?!?)  But I digress…

Secret Coders Series

So you can see why I was stoked when First Second offered to send me the first four books of the graphic novel series Secret Coders.  I read them quickly and then passed them on to my 8 YO. As I’m writing this review, she is re-reading them. She just LOVES this series.

I asked her, “What do you love about it?”

She said simply:

  • It’s about coding
  • It’s a mystery

And that is exactly what is so awesome about Secret Coders! In this series, the main character Hopper moves to a new school only to find that she is surrounded by puzzles and mystery. Working with her new friends, she learns the Logo language and has to program a robotic turtle to draw patterns that unlock the clues to her school’s past. Meaning, she has to use logic and math to problem solve, create art, and solve each puzzle. This book is exemplar at gamifying math and programming. Plus, it shows how math is ART. This type of directional coding is good for laying a foundation with conditional statements across platforms and troubleshooting/persevering.

One of my favorite things about this series is that Yang includes puzzles for the reader to solve like this one below:

“Go ahead. Give it a shot. Try to write a program that can do my homework.”

IMG_0983IMG_0982

A Little History Note:

Wait…Logo? YES! This book is based on the Logo language created by Seymour Papert, Wally Feurzeig, and Cynthia Solomon. This language was a learning tool that was later developed to program a robotic turtle that held a drawing pen. Students use math to program the turtle to take simple shapes that create intricate designs. Read more about the  Logo history here.

More Coding Books for Kids

There are lots of great coding books out there to get kids interested. Here are just a few. Please share your favorites in the comments.

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TLA Takeaways

Tech Camp Presentation

I was honored to present with my #superlibrarianhubs, Aaron Graves, at TLA’s Tech Camp! We had a fast and frenzied presentation on the library as a makerspace at this awesome preconference to the epic Texas Librarian Association conference.  We were able to present our ideas on research and makerspaces to almost 600 librarians through four dynamic sessions! Click this thumbnail to visit our Tackk:

See on Tackk.com
My biggest takeaways from Tech Camp:

(These are my thoughts from presenting all day and then hearing our ideas reiterated in Matthew Winner’s Keynote)

  • When we let our kids fail, we teach them perseverance.
  • We need to teach students how to use social media by modeling effective use.
  • Our research instruction methods need an update so we can reach all students (including the 50% of Texas HS graduates that do not go to college.)
  • A library makerspace allows us to teach our students authentic research skills.
  • Through challenge based learning we can teach students crowdsourcing research methods by:
    1. Incorporating keyword searches
    2. Advanced Google searching with operators
    3. Authenticating sources (including on Youtube and social media)
    4. Sharing learning through social media (See my lamar_library How to Vines)

Thanks to Sparkfun and the awesome Bev, we had a mobile makerspace set up outside of our day long session.  Check out the pics below! Ardusat even came out to share info on their cubesats! Plus, Mod Robotics sent us a Cubelets set to demo and Chibitronics even donated a circuit notebook as a giveaway!

On top of all the learning, I met so many awesome authors and I can’t wait to see the collaboration that will unfold from this epic TLA!

TLA Sessions and Authors

TLA is an amazing place to chat with superstar librarians, book bloggers, and great authors.  I was able to meet up with my National Writing Project buddies Kerri Harris and Donalyn Miller (Whom I realized I’ve known for almost a DECADE! We all ordered the same lunch and realized we are all reading the same book! Look for a collaborative post on The Nerdy Book Club blog in May.)

As we sat down to wait for a lunch table, we ran into Tom Angleberger of Origami Yoda fame, John Rocco Caldecott winner for Blackout and Percy Jackson Illustrator, and Chris Barton picture book author extraordinaire. Our casual conversation about the ease of connecting students with authors through social media got me thinking about how great TLA is for making connections and how inspiring the 21st century has become!  I’m hoping to find out more about John Rocco’s research when creating mythology illustrations to tie in with my 8th grade student mythology research project. Plus, I’d love to learn more from Chris Barton about his research methods for his entertaining and informative picture books. I think my students could learn a lot from these great writers’ authentic research processes!

I even stumbled upon YA author Lindsay Cummings at TT4L ! We’ve been chatting about a dystopian author panel to meet with my 7th grade students in the next few weeks. Our History students are working on a PBL (Project Based Learning) about the next civil war and we are wanting to discuss Dystopian and political aspects that could change the future of America.

Lastly, I spent my final day of TLA running a makerspace for teens at TT4L. They loved learning simple circuits with the Makey Makeys, driving the Sparkfun Redbot with Arduino libraries, and of course racing Sphero and Ollie.  (Note, if you haven’t bought Makey Makeys or Spheros yet, YOU NEED TO! Get a class set of both!)

Now it’s time to get back to reading graphic novels for the School Library Month #shelfchallenge! What are you reading?