Ditch the anemic story and nerd-pandering, but keep the nifty activity book.



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)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-06500-1

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants.


Large color photographs (occasionally composed of montages) and accessible, simple text highlight global similarities and differences, always focusing on our universal connections.

While child readers may not recognize Manzano, the Puerto Rican actress who played Maria on Sesame Street, adults will recognize her as a trusted diverse voice. In her endnote, she explains her desire to “encourage lively conversations about shared experiences.” Starting out with the familiar, home and community, the text begins with “How many WONDERFUL PEOPLE do you know?” Then it moves out to the world: “Did you know there are about 8 BILLION PEOPLE on the planet?” The photo essay features the usual concrete similarities and differences found in many books of this type, such as housing (a Mongolian yurt opposite a Hong Kong apartment building overlooking a basketball court), food (dumplings, pizza, cotton candy, a churro, etc.), and school. Manzano also makes sure to point out likenesses in emotions, as shown in a montage of photos from countries including China, Spain, Kashmir (Pakistan/India), and the United States. At the end, a world map and thumbnail images show the locations of all photos, revealing a preponderance of examples from the U.S. and a slight underrepresentation for Africa and South America.

Engaging, well-chosen images and a clear, coherent text illuminate the importance of empathy for the world’s inhabitants. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4263-3738-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: National Geographic Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A good introduction to observation, data, and trying again.


From the Cece and the Scientific Method series

Cece loves asking “why” and “what if.”

Her parents encourage her, as does her science teacher, Ms. Curie (a wink to adult readers). When Cece and her best friend, Isaac, pair up for a science project, they choose zoology, brainstorming questions they might research. They decide to investigate whether dogs eat vegetables, using Cece’s schnauzer, Einstein, and the next day they head to Cece’s lab (inside her treehouse). Wearing white lab coats, the two observe their subject and then offer him different kinds of vegetables, alone and with toppings. Cece is discouraged when Einstein won’t eat them. She complains to her parents, “Maybe I’m not a real scientist after all….Our project was boring.” Just then, Einstein sniffs Cece’s dessert, leading her to try a new way to get Einstein to eat vegetables. Cece learns that “real scientists have fun finding answers too.” Harrison’s clean, bright illustrations add expression and personality to the story. Science report inserts are reminiscent of The Magic Schoolbus books, with less detail. Biracial Cece is a brown, freckled girl with curly hair; her father is white, and her mother has brown skin and long, black hair; Isaac and Ms. Curie both have pale skin and dark hair. While the book doesn’t pack a particularly strong emotional or educational punch, this endearing protagonist earns a place on the children’s STEM shelf.

A good introduction to observation, data, and trying again. (glossary) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-249960-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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