Unplugged (Steve Antony)

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Hello, friends! Our book today is Unplugged by Steve Antony, a sweet story about balancing screen time with the real world.

A little robot named Blip loves being plugged into her computer. There’s so much to do and see inside her magic machine: she can play games, learn things, explore far off places, and much more. That is, until the day a power outage and a trip down her stairs rolls her, quite unexpectedly, out into the real world. Quickly taken under wing by a friendly duck, fawn, and bunny, the little robot is fascinated to find that the real world also holds so many wonderful things, including fresh new ways to learn, play, and explore. Having spent the day trying all manner of new things, Blip eventually finds her way back home. She sadly parts ways with her new friends and heads back upstairs to plug in. But now, her virtual world seems a little flat and gray; perhaps Blip has learned that there’s more to life than her computer screen…

Clever and sweet. Antony’s work is very popular in our house (his Mr. Panda series is one of JJ’s all-time favorites), and it’s easy to see why: the art is simple, charming, and witty; his stories are succinct yet fun, and yet always have a clear message to discuss with readers. This one, about the importance of balancing screen time with real-world interactions, is a valuable one right now. The story and art keep the message impactful yet brief; Antony cleverly uses monochrome colors to show Blip’s digital life, then contrasts this with classic storybook pastels in her adventures outside. That, along with a wonderful set of spreads that juxtaposes individual digital vs. real world activities, does as much to tell the story as the text does. It keeps the length of the story extremely manageable, and allows for a jumping off point for discussions between kids and their caregivers. JJ really enjoyed little Blip, and so did I. A smart modern parable, and we recommend it: Baby Bookworm approved!

SOIC & SOT: The Microchips (Jeffrey C. Dunnihoo)

Hello, friends! Our book today is SOIC & SOT: The Microchips, written by Jeffrey C. Dunnihoo and illustrated by Simona M. Ceccarelli, the tale of two young microchips fulfilling their destiny.

SOIC and SOT are best friends, even though they have never spoken. Growing up on neighboring packaging reels in a quiet warehouse, the two have always been able to see each other, but never able to speak – they don’t know how yet. One day, their box is selected and brought to a manufacturing room, and the friends are separated. SOIC is sent through a machine where he is picked up and placed into a mainframe, then attached using goopy silver stuff and a warm oven. The process is scary, but soon SOIC finds that he is not alone – he now has new friends to meet. And when he is connected to something called The Network, he begins to use his own voice to learn and listen to the wider world around him – perhaps even to recognize the voice of an old friend…

Absolutely FANTASTIC. This story had so many positive qualities – an in-depth yet easily-understood look at how computers are made; a powerful metaphor for growing up, leaving home, and finding your voice; a sweet story of how friendship can carry across distances. The illustrations are stellar, managing to make tiny bits of metal into sympathetic and adorable characters. And don’t miss scanning the QR codes hidden throughout the art, which take readers to a website that explains the story’s technology in more detail. There’s a small issue of titles that are indistinguishable from neighboring text, making them look like odd interjections, and some scary moments that might make younger bookworms a little nervous. But the length was great, JJ loved it, and so did I. An amazing way to help little ones connect with STEM, and we can’t wait to see more. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

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!

Grace Hopper: Queen Of Computer Code (Laurie Wallmark)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Grace Hopper: Queen Of Computer Code, written by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by Katy Wu, a wonderfully geeky and girl-powered biography of the programming pioneer.

Grace always loved to try new things. As a child, she was so curious to understand how clocks worked that she dismantled every clock in their home to find out. When she put together a dollhouse and realized that it had been designed without stairs, she built her own electric elevator for it. A lover of math and science, she worked hard to learn how to read and write code, even inventing a way to convert code written in English to the ones and zeroes of the programming language. She was undeniably vital to the early age of computers: when the Navy forced her to retire at sixty, they soon realized that her expertise was so critical that they offered for her to come back… for another twenty years! Grace was a brilliant programmer who changed the way we communicate with computers – more than worthy of her nickname, “Amazing Grace”!

Wonderful! Grace Hopper was a name I’ve heard every Women’s History Month, but I admit I knew little about her work, and this book was incredibly enlightening! From lessons on perseverance and curiosity to the absolutely delightful story of how the phrase “computer bug” came to be, each page explores a different aspect of Grace’s life. Real quotes from Hopper are worked into the cheerful and inviting illustrations that capture Grace’s positive attitude and playful nature. The length may be stretching it for the littlest readers, however – even JJ was starting to get antsy near the end. But overall, this is a fun, uplifting and inspiring story of a clever and adventurous woman of science, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

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