Following Secret Coders (2015), Hopper, Josh, and Eni unlock more of Stately Academy’s secrets—but they learn they aren’t the only ones doing so.
Starting off right at the cliffhanger from the previous book, the multicultural protagonists—Asian-American Hopper, African-American Eni, and racially indeterminate Josh—must code their way out of custodian Mr. Bee’s challenge. Through teamwork and trial and error, they succeed, and Mr. Bee gives them a secret history of the secret, abandoned Bee School beneath Stately. After an efficient rundown on the programming language Logo, he shows the kids the artistic possibilities of code, a lesson promptly used by Hopper to cheat on her Chinese homework. She’s found out, but trash duty with Mr. Bee is an ineffectual punishment now that it has become programming with Professor Bee, and even Josh misbehaves his way into joining. With this second volume, character development comes to the fore, and a central interpersonal storyline finds the three unifying into a trio. Helping to resolve the simmering conflict between Hopper and Josh are encounters with rugby team bullies, who walk a line between comical and intimidating in a way that serves tone while maintaining tension. Holmes’ green, gray, and white panels convey characterization, action, and coding principles with equal ease.
Between the creativity-encouraging coding lessons and the character-driven plotlines, this sequel charms from PenDown to PenUp. (Graphic fiction. 8-14)