Friday, September 23, 2016


Hello everyone,
I am so excited to be part of the Reading Without Walls Blog Tour. I really, really enjoyed the first two books in the Secret Coders graphic novel series and, as an elementary school librarian, I'll definitely adding this series to our graphic novel collection. Read on for my complete thoughts about Secret Coders (book 1) and Secret Coders: Paths and Portals (book 2). And, as a bonus, another fantastic STEM title.


Publisher: FirstSecond
Pages: 96 pages
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Summary (for full synopsis visit Goodreads)
Welcome to Stately Academy, a school which is just crawling with mysteries to be solved! The founder of the school left many clues and puzzles to challenge his enterprising students. Using their wits and their growing prowess with coding, Hopper and her friend Eni are going to solve the mystery of Stately Academy no matter what it takes!



Publisher: FirstSecond
Pages: 96 pages
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Source of my copy: publisher
Summary (for full synopsis visit Goodreads)
There's something lurking beneath the surface of Stately Academy—literally. In a secret underground classroom Hopper, Eni, and Josh discover that the campus was once home to the Bee School, an institute where teachers, students, and robots worked together to unravel the mysteries of coding. Hopper and her friends are eager to follow in this tradition and become top-rate coders. But why are Principal Dean and the rugby team suddenly so interested in their extracurricular activities?


I read Secret Coders and Secret Coders: Paths and Portals one right after the other, so I'm just going to reading the first two books in the series as a whole.

When I was first contacted about the Secret Coders series, I jumped at the chance right away. A STEM graphic novel series? I needed to check it out--not only do I need to build my school library's STEM collection and I'm always on the look out for books for reluctant readers, but it's by Gene Luen Yang so I knew that the story was going to be good. And I was right.
Hopper just moved to a new town with her mom, and now has to go to prestigious Stately Academy. Hopper hates her new school, but she can tell right away that there's something mysterious and creepy about it. After a rough start, she became friends with two boys, Eni and Josh. Through cleverness and their growing knowledge of coding, they piece together clues to solve the mystery of Stately Academy.

I absolutely love how the authors approached coding. When I used to think of coding, I picture a jumble of nonsense commands that I have no hope of ever deciphering and I think a lot of students also have that idea and are intimidated. In Secret Coders, they made coding so accessible to kids (and adults!), explaining how to create a program step by step--building on a simple program to create a more complex one as different types of commands are introduced. Then, they go over different types of program and actually showing what each step looks like and it makes sense! Another thing I love is how Hopper's character (our narrator) invites and encourages the reader to try and create their own program to solve the puzzle. I can see a few of my students actually stop reading and work out the puzzle.

I also enjoyed the fact that despite the graphic novel's emphasis on coding, it didn't loose the overall story and mystery that kept things entertaining and kept me reading because I wanted to know answers. Hopper had a couple of secondary story lines (her missing dad, her relationship with her mom, basketball) also that gives her character dimension. I love that our main character is a girl who can hold her own with the boys. There's also humor involved, especially between Hopper and Josh, who both started off on the wrong foot.

The only reason I didn't give it the full five stars was because of the art. The drawing style is fine--I wasn't in love with it but it's fine. Actually, it sort of reminds me of Phineas and Ferb, but it's done in black, white, and green. This is completely personal, but I would've preferred it full color.

The Secret Coders series is definitely one to include in your order list, or to your to-read list. It's a really fun series, and it gets students to think about coding in an easy and accessible way. Also, this series is perfect to read before (as an intro to coding) or during Hour of Code. Highly recommended!

****

Publisher: FirstSecond
Pages: 240 pages
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Source of my copy: publisher
Summary (for full synopsis visit Goodreads)
Welcome to the Human Body Theater, where your master of ceremonies is going to lead you through a theatrical revue of each and every biological system of the human body! Starting out as a skeleton, the MC puts on a new layer of her costume (her body) with each "act." By turns goofy and intensely informative, the Human Body Theater is always accessible and always entertaining.

Maris Wicks is a biology nerd, and by the time you've read this book, you will be too! Harnessing her passion for science (and her background as a science educator for elementary and middle-school students), she has created a comics-format introduction to the human body that will make an expert of any reader -- young or old!


Another great STEM graphic novel title is Human Body Theater by Maris Wicks. It was such a fun way to learn about every biological system in the human body--if I had this book when I was a student it would've made health and science a lot more interesting and I probably will remember more information than I did just reading from a boring text book. I just love how it presented the biological systems in such an entertaining and funny way.

I love the full-color art and the characters were drawn in such a cute and adorable way that you forget they don't actually look that cute in real-life.

Just like the Secret Coders series, I highly recommend Human Body Theater both as a librarian and as a reader. Students grades 3 and above will get a kick out of the illustrations and learning about the human body in such an entertaining and fun way. I'm definitely going to be looking into more works by Maris Wicks!


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