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  • Writer's pictureSuzie Olsen

STEM Product Review: How to Code a Rollercoaster

Updated: Mar 2, 2020

As a female engineer, supporting diversity in my profession is close to my heart and supporting diversity in children's book is an extension of that.  It's why I'm excited to be participating in Multicultural Children's Book Day (MCBD), which is on January 31 this year, and especially thrilled to receive a copy of the picture book How to Code a Rollercoaster from the author, Josh Funk, to review for STEM Spark!

Here's a little about MCBD. Multicultural Children’s Book Day in its 7th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators. 

Alright, let's <br> it down (wink, wink, wink, groan). Here's the review of How to Code a Rollercoaster.

Will your kids like it and/or will you hate it?

Does your kids like amusement parks? Does your kid like robots? Does your kid like fun stories about a kid running around an amusement park with their robot sidekick all while performing code? Then, yes your kid will like this book!

Pearl, our kid protagonist, is back with her robot sidekick Pascal in How to Code a Rollercoaster. This book is part of the Girls Who Code picture book series written by Josh Funk and illustrated by Sara Palacios, and STEM Spark first meet Pearl and Pascal in How to Code a Sandcastle. This time around Pearl introduces us to coding terms variable and sequence and uses code to help her and Pascal get a seat on the giant rollercoaster.

How long will it keep them entertained?

Jack really adored How to Code a Rollercoaster and has asked to read it over and over again (kind of like a coding loop!). Since he loves rollercoasters, I do suspect that it is his love of coasters and not coding that brings us back to this book. However, I'll take any opportunity I can to teach him the "T" and "E" part of STEM, and this book definitely makes coding fun for child and adult through humor and sweet illustrations. It should keep them entertained for multiple readings, and thus maybe multiple days!

Are they a good value?

So I did receive How to Code a Rollercoaster as part of MCBD (thanks Josh Funk for supporting MCBD through book donations), but Amazon tells me the book is selling for $15.29. That is a market price for a hard back picture book, but if you feel it's out of your price range, then your local library should be able to secure a copy for you. And the sister book How to Code a Sandcastle is only $9.99, which seems like a doable price for most of us--remember a portion of the sales goes to the non-profit Girls Who Code! So again, if you aren't going to buy a copy (which is totally cool), I urge you to go to your local library and ask them to stock it. Thanks!

Ninja-like STEM Skills

As I mention before, this book really puts the "T" and "E" into STEM-- it's all about coding! But if I think about it, there's some "S" and "M" in coding too. I usually think of it as tool used in tech and engineering, but it is much more. Anyway, I love how Jack learned what a variable and sequence was (which duh, that's totally math related!) and that the concept of loops was reinforced. While the STEM skills aren't so sneaky ninja, they are presented in a fun and easy way for beginners (and advance). And the wink, wink STEM moments, like the name of the ice cream flavors, Raspberry Pie and Macintosh Apple, are sure to thrill STEM enthusiasts. Oh yeah, there are rollercoaster or coding activities one could incorporate with the book, like this one or this one.

Overall, STEM Spark gives How to Code a Rollercoaster a five out of five stars (based off the Amazon rating system), so please, please go get this book from your local library, bookstore, or Amazon! It's all that and a bag of microchips!

Thank you again to the author Josh Funk for supplying this book for Multicultural Children's Book Day, and to MCBD for raising awareness and celebrating diverse books!

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