Review: Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang (Author), Mike Holmes (Illustrations)

23310720 (1)

Paperback, 96 pages
Published September 29th 2015 by First Second
Source: Publisher

Hopper moves to a new school, one with a weird janitor person, strange birds with an odd number of eyes, and a jock who may or may not be her first friend. Hopper succeeds in pissing off the janitor, her Mandarin teacher, and the students all in the same day. So things aren’t going great for her.

Still, there’s something really strange going on in the school. There are birds that react to numbers and shed doors that remain stubbornly closed. Hopper cannot resist mysteries and she partners up with the basketball ace and a potential friend, Eni, to figure out the mystery of her new school. Eni is well versed with computer programming and under his tutelage, Hopper quickly learns the basics of coding and starts to apply what she has learned on things she didn’t think could be programmed.

Secret Coders is remarkable in that it presents coding and programming in such an accessible manner that even someone like me who can’t look at math without shuddering am able to follow and understand it. The graphic novel opens up a lot of possibilities and potential for people who didn’t know about coding until after they read the book. The narrative is simple and fast paced. The conflict is rooted in the usual us vs. them trope, us being the children while they are the adults. There is an added complication of Hopper’s mysterious father about whom we know very little except that he, too, was a coder (I think). I’m sure more will be revealed as the series continues.

I’m not familiar with Mike Holmes’s art. The black, white, and green colour palette was a bit stressful on the eyes but the story flew forward so quickly that I finished the book before the colour became a real issue. I do hope the palette changes with the next installment.

The graphic novel is rich in diversity and is sure to be appealing to all genders. I recommend Secret Coders for your libraries and kids. (Also, for you. You know you want to.)

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