Friday, 11 September 2015

Hello Ruby: A Book about Coding for Kids Aged 5-8 - Review

Our bedtime story tonight was Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding by Linda Liukas. We backed the project on Kickstarter and received the digital copy today. We interrupted our current bedtime book* to read Hello Ruby.

Hello Ruby! is a gorgeous picture book which tells the story of a fierce little girl who goes on an adventure which is packed with experiences that have a counterpart in computer science.

We've been waiting a while for this book. My kids are a bit older than I expected them to be when reading this, but still young enough to appreciate it.

"The world's most whimsical way to learn about COMPUTERS, PROGRAMMING, and TECHNOLOGY."
I used iBooks on the iPad to read the PDF of the book. The PDF is laid out as double page spreads but the iPad isn't really big enough to comfortably view two pages at once (yeah, we need an iPad Pro.) We made do with portrait mode, but some pages are just pictures and are meant to be enjoyed as the text is read on the opposite page.

Kids Review

So what did my boys aged 7 and 8 make of Hello Ruby? They loved it. The quirky characters are right up their street. As luck would have it, they are obsessed with pixel art at the moment and had been doing some before going to bed, guess what Ruby is doing in an illustration right at the beginning of the book!

They already know quite a bit about computing so they picked up on quite a few of the underlying messages. 

They were desperate to get stuck into the activities at the back of the book, but it was too late to do more than have a quick look tonight. My seven year old asked if he can have it on his iPad (definitely!) There are also printables that go with the exercises, we'll be giving those a go soon. 

Parents Review

I wish there were more books like this around. Computing-themed books for little children are thin on the ground. If my kids were a bit younger I could imagine Hello Ruby being on regular rotation as a bedtime story with them understanding more and more as they get older.

I love the focus on being persistent and not giving up. Definitely an important message for kids in coding and in life in general. 

The activities build on the story in a really neat way. Don't expect kids to be doing actual programming. Instead they will be doing activities that promote computational thinking but feel like playing. 

Having to explain the word stoical to my kids took me a bit by surprise. Not typical picture book vocab. Thanks Linda! I think I pulled it off. 

There are plenty of little details for coder parents to notice which is a nice touch. An minor quibble is that the book says that computational thinking is thinking like a computer would. Not really.

Where Can You Get It?

Hello Ruby: Adventures in Coding is now available to pre-order by the general public for an October 2015 release. The folks on Kickstarter who ordered a physical copy paid a lot more than latecomers will pay so you'll be getting a great deal if you order now.
Update: Hello Ruby 2 is out! Both books are available on Amazon.

* Our Current Bedtime Book

Our current bedtime book has a lot in common with Hello Ruby, but for an older audience. Computational Fairy Tales by Jeremy Kubica introduces computational thinking concepts through a quest story featuring a young girl as the lead character. There are lots of similarities with Hello Ruby but for an audience aged around 10+. My kids are loving it so far but it may get too complicated at some point. Definitely suitable for older kids.

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