Monday, August 14, 2017

ARC Review: The Friendship Code

Title: The Friendship Code
Series: Girls Who Code
Author: Stacia Deutsch
Publisher: Penguin Workshop
Publication Date: August 22, 2017
Source: ARC from Publisher

Perfect for fans of The Babysitters Club and anyone interested in computer science, this series is published in partnership with the organization Girls Who Code!

Loops, variables, input/output - Lucy can't wait to get started with the new coding club at school. Finally, an after school activity that she's really interested in. But Lucy's excitement turns to disappointment when she's put into a work group with girls she barely knows. All she wanted to do was make an app that she believes will help someone very special to her.

Suddenly, Lucy begins to get cryptic coding messages and needs some help translating them. She soon discovers that coding - and friendship - takes time, dedication, and some laughs!

My Review

When I picked up The Friendship Code, I really had no idea what to expect. I was intrigued by the cover full of diverse young girls, and I was curious to see how the author, Stacia Deutsch handled young girls trying to learn coding. Basically, I was curious about the new book and just hoping not to be disappointed. What I discovered was a delightful realistic middle grade read that I would recommend to all my middle school ELA teaching peers.

The Friendship Code follows Lucy during her first few days of the school year. Now that she's in sixth grade, she can finally join Coding Club - a club she's been waiting to get into, especially because her mom and her brother are both coders. She's disappointed after the first meeting because the sponser, Mrs. Clark, taught them how to write directions for making a sandwich, instead of teaching them new things on the computer. Heck, they didn't even power up the computers! What's a girl who just wants to immerse herself in the coding world to do? Suddenly, she starts getting messages written in code, and she turns to her peers. Will the girls be able to figure them out? And what else will they discover along the way?

Stacia Deutsch's writing is absolutely wonderful for a middle grade book. It's not too complicated, but it's got just the right amount of punch to really challenge those younger readers who just might be starting to read chapter books. It's also interesting enough to keep an older middle grade reader engaged. I really enjoyed how I was able to get into Lucy's mind and see the world through her eyes.

Ms. Deutsch also embeds some text messaging and coding into the book, which I think is perfect for a book about tech-saavy preteens and young teenagers. It was fun to follow along with their text messages, however, I will admit that one thing bothered me about the text messages in the book - and that was the abbreviations in the texts. I'm just not so sold on the fact that kids today don't spell out the word "homework" in their texts, but that could be the teacher in me coming out after seeing middle schoolers use iPads for three consecutive school years.

Diversity is also present in The Friendship Code. Diverse characters are in the book, but their presence is something that's just mentioned, and not overly stressed. For these girls, what's more important is friendship and discovering new things to learn. When I was finished reading, I took away that Lucy is African-American, Sophia is Hispanic or Latina, Maya is Asian, and Erin is caucasian from little hints in Lucy's narration. This is done with the mentioning of a last name, physical features, and the mention of the word "abuela." It was so nice to see Ms. Deutsch include such diverse characters that will serve as role models for the young girls who read this book.

Honestly, I thought The Friendship Code was adorable! I won't admit this too often, but I don't really know how to code, so I really admired the fact that there is a book series out there that really focuses on young girls in STEAM environments. As a female educator, I think a series like this will change the lives of preteens around the world.

The Friendship Code (book one in the Girls Who Code series) by Stacia Deutsch is one middle grade book that middle grade readers should definitely pick up late this summer! It's got a little bit of everything for middle grade readers - great female characters, awesome adult supporting characters, a STEAM-friendly plot, and most importantly, friendship. I would recommend this book for readers in grades 4-7, but I also think it would be great for parents to read to their younger children.

Stacia Deutsch is the author of more than a hundred children's books, both original and write for hire. She is the author of the eight book, award winning, chapter book series Blast to the Past. Her resume includes Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew, The Boxcar Children, and Mean Ghouls from Scholastic. Stacia has also written junior movie tie in novels for summer blockbuster films, including BATMAN, THE DARK KNIGHT and the New York Times Best Sellers: CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS JR. and THE SMURFS. In 2013, she earned her MFA from Western State where she currently teaches fiction writing. Find her at @staciadeutsch and www.facebook/staciadeutsch.

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