Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Scratch Programming in Easy Steps Book Review

Scratch Programming in Easy Steps by Sean McManus is a beginner to intermediate Scratch project book which introduces children to the Scratch programming environment through a variety of hands-on projects.

We've previously reviewed the more advanced book in this series, Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps, yes we probably should have reviewed the beginner book first, but that's just the way it worked out.

Disclosure: We were sent a copy of the book for the purposes of this review. As always, our views are our own.
Scratch Programming in Easy Steps is a full-colour book which covers both Scratch 2.0 and Scratch 1.4. When the book was published Scratch 2.0 wasn't available for the Raspberry Pi but it is now.

The book has lots of illustrations and colour code examples but it is quite text-heavy so children will need to be competent readers to make the most of it. Scratch is generally recommended for children from age 8+, a lot of children start with Scratch quite a bit younger than this so if you're buying a book for a younger child you'll want to consider their reading level or plan to work through the book with them.

Scratch is a fab environment for kids to learn to code, create and share, but a lot of kids need some support to get started. This is where a beginner Scratch book comes in really handy.

The book has a great variety of projects. It's not all games (we like games but they're not the only thing you can create in Scratch.) Beginner coders will learn to create digital art and work with sound and music as well as creating some fun games.

One of the things I really like about Sean McManus's Scratch books is that he covers the creation of graphics including drawing programmatically with the pen and using the paint tool. These are really useful skills to have in Scratch and allow kids to use their visual design skills along with coding skills. It's much better for children to learn to create their own graphics and graphic effects rather than just reusing graphics that other people have created.

The book also has a section that gives you a taster of how to work with hardware in Scratch. This includes one of my favourite bits of hardware to use with Scratch, the Pico Board. The Pico Board is a fab add-on which has a button and slider and sensors and the ability to work with external components using inputs that measure resistance.  Note that you can use the Pico Board with Scratch 2 as well as Scratch 1.4 (which was not the case when the book was originally written.)

Scratch Programming in Easy Steps is a Scratch book with lots of depth. It's packed with tips and useful information about how Scratch works and the way that you create programs. This makes it great for enthusiastic beginners as well as children who already know the basics of Scratch and want to increase their skill level.

If your child is not quite ready for this level, then try McManus's Coder Academy book.

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