Originally a Kickstarter project, this chapter-book/workbook hybrid seeks to introduce programming to young readers.
Liukas, a programming-literacy advocate and a founder of Rails Girls, an international organization that offers programming workshops to young women, brings an extensive, impressive computer science background to her book. It opens with profiles of the cast of characters, which represent in-jokes about various computer systems, before starting with titular Ruby coloring in her room (and her drawings are a game for comp-sci–savvy parents, who will enjoy identifying the references). The childlike illustrations are serviceable, and the same can be said for the prose. The plot starts for real in the second chapter, when a postcard from her father sends Ruby on a scavenger hunt for five gems. Using logic-puzzle clues and a map, Ruby plots a course that takes her to each of the other characters, where she quickly solves problems to retrieve the gems—up until the last gem, which she decides not to even ask for, in a sudden, preachy, shoehorned message about friendship that fails to provide a satisfying story conclusion. While the story isn’t particularly successful, the second half of the book consists of exercises to encourage young programmers. The puzzles cover basic computer science tools and concepts with easy-to-follow examples (though the youngest readers may still need adult help), and they sometimes reference the story.
Ditch the anemic story and nerd-pandering, but keep the nifty activity book. (glossary) (Fiction/activity book. 5-8)