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Books of the Week: “Girls Who Code: The Friendship Code” and “Girls Who Code: Team BFF Race to the Finish!”

Jan 22, 2018 | By: Isabel Huff

Books of the Week: “Girls Who Code: The Friendship Code” and “Girls Who Code: Team BFF Race to the Finish!” thumbnail

Girls Who Code: The Friendship Code

by Stacia Deutsch

Lucy wants to program an app to help her uncle remember to take his cancer medications, so she joins coding club.  But on the first day, all they do is talk about input/output and giving instructions.  At this rate, Lucy thinks, she’ll never be ready to create an app.  She asks her brother to help her, but he refuses.  Then, mysterious notes show up on her locker that seem to have something to do with coding (although she isn’t sure what).  In the process of deciphering these clues, she makes new friends.  While there are quite a few references to makeup (which we found unnecessary for middle-schoolers), the themes of patience, friendship, family, finding your inner strength, and appreciating different perspectives were included thoughtfully into the story.  Additionally, the coding was well-written into the book--it didn’t feel forced.  Thanks to our interns Amanda Alkam and Kirstie Bailey-Shaw for providing their input to this review!

Girls Who Code: Team BFF: Race to the Finish!

A sequel to The Friendship Code, this book is written from the perspective of Sophia, one of Lucy’s friends.  In the story, Lucy, Maya, Erin, and Sophia are planning to participate in a local hackathon.  They find out one of their classmates, Leila, no longer has a team because her partners can’t attend, so Sophia and her friends ask her to join their group.

But things go awry when Sophia’s family tell her they need her to do chores and babysit her younger sisters on the day of the hackathon, especially because the whole team has to go or they will all be disqualified.  But Sophia’s friends/teammates step in to save the day, helping her get the chores done and secure a babysitter so they can all go to the hackathon.

And, while their team doesn’t win (not even close), the girls learn important lessons about teamwork and learning--and how those are more important than winning.

One strong plotline of the book was Sophia’s crush on a classmate named Sammy, a soccer player.  Sophia’s friends tease her about the crush regularly, but also encourage her to ask him out, rather than waiting for him to ask her out.  At the end of the book, she does.  While these kind of storylines sometimes detract from the rest of the story, it didn’t do so as much in this book.  I think that’s because there were already strong themes of friendship and because, as described, Sophia’s friends encourage her to do something independent and nontraditional.  There is also discussion of clothes and accessories, but not SO much that it detracts from the story either.

One sweet side-storyline is that one of Sophia’s sisters has autism.  As Sophia puts it “My parents said she was on the autism spectrum, but she was just Lola to me: my spunky, brave, eight-year-old little sister.”  So while Lola is depicted as different, her autism is not at all portrayed as negative.

The book includes some dialogues as the characters use a messaging program to discuss their robot plans.  These provide great examples of building on others’ ideas and encouraging wild ideas, which are important parts of the engineering design cycle.  There are interesting examples of coding application and other STEM ideas in the book as well, like when Sophia learns that Leila’s sister wants to return to Pakistan (her home country) to build agricultural robots; when the girls learn about a medical app that can connect to a fitness tracker; or when Leila helps Sophia’s sister Lola build a Rube Goldberg machine to feed her fish.  Overall, this book is a great pick for girls who want to know more about coding!

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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 1223868 and 1223460.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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