Book Review: Coding Unlocked: Scratch and Python: the basics (Hywel Carver)

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“Oh man this is fun! I made squid-Pong!!” ~Me post-book

TL;DR – A great little introduction to coding with Scratch and Python. Everyone buy this for your kids!



Why I read it…

I was well and truly bored out of my skull since finishing university – then I saw on the news that the world needs more folk with coding skills. We happened to have this book lying around for some reason, so I thought I’d work through it.

This was added to the “A book that will make you smarter” section of my reading challenge.

The Book…

This book gives you an absolute bare-bones introduction to computer coding. It teaches the absolute beginnings of Scratch and Python.

Scratch is a visual coding language; you drag and drop different elements into sequences and build your code that way. It is a very clever tool for developing the kind of structured, critical thinking required in order to use the other parts of the book – Python.

Python is your more traditional coding language. Typing in symbols and words that might as well be an alien language if you don’t know how to use it.

The book starts by introducing you to what coding means, and what it is for. Then it moves on to introducing some basic concepts. Each section has a series of tasks for the reader to complete and understand before moving on which consolidate all that has been covered so far in the book, gradually building and building.

By the end of the book, readers have created a couple of little games using Scratch and several little programs using python.

What I liked…

The book is written in a really easy-to-follow style. It gives you some code, explains what it does and then tests you to see if you can apply what you’ve just learned. It does this through a series of little tests. In Scratch, you are guided gently into creating an extremely simple animation, which makes a cat speak, and gradually you build up to making a fully functional game of Pong. In Python, you are told to solve a series of puzzles, by writing a program and inputting data.

Probably the best thing about this book is the way it uses Scratch to teach you the way to think about using python. Every concept is introduced in Scratch and you are taught how to piece your code sequences together with a drag-and-drop interface, and a cartoon cat that does what you tell it to. This teaches you the way the code operates, and how to split down a big instruction such as “Answer this number puzzle” into the simplest set of instructions possible – then you are shown how to use these ideas and turn them into python code. The transfer from one language to the other feels very natural, and and very simple.

Finally, it is really good fun. I felt an immense sense of accomplishment as I was working through this book. Completely each chapter feels like a real achievement because you can see it working – everything you learn has a purpose and you can watch it work.

What I disliked…

Code elements are printed in green text on a black background. __Like This which can be a little difficult to read at times, especially if you don’t have good light.

I also would have liked more of it, but it was a book aimed at children so I really can’t complain much that front. However, there could have been a ‘next steps’ or ‘further reading’ section, which it unfortunately didn’t.

Final thoughts…

This is a brilliant little book for learning the absolute basics – a perfect first step into the wonderful world of computer code. It is encouraging and challenging in all the right ways, and gives you a great sense of accomplishment.

If your child (or indeed you yourself) are interested in what makes computers work, then you can’t go wrong with this book. I cannot recommend it strongly enough as a starting point.

Please note: I am in no way affiliated with the author or publishers. I bought this book with my own money for my own reasons. The opinions contained within are my own and have not been influenced by any external entity!

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