About the Holiday
With Memorial Day just past, it’s officially summer. Soon kids will be getting out of school and enjoying the beach and/or camp. A favorite summer past time is computer camp, which is a perfect mashup of fun and learning. Today’s holiday celebrates all of the inventive web designers who create clear, workable, and enjoyable sites where we can shop, get the latest news, watch videos, play games, and so much more. Our computers, phones, and tablets are so interwoven with our daily routine that we can’t even imagine life without them anymore. All that designing and coding takes specialized knowledge, education, and skill. If you know a web designer, thank them for their hard work—and if you know a child (or perhaps even yourself) who would like a career in coding or web design, get them started with a class or two—and today’s book!
How to Code a Sandcastle
Written by Josh Funk | Illustrated by Sara Palacios
It’s the last day of Pearl’s summer vacation, and she’s hit the beach with her parents. Her goal is to build a sandcastle. It’s not like she hasn’t tried on other beach days, but there was always something that destroyed it. There was the frisbee that landed on top of it, then a surfer glided right into it, and another girl’s dog, Ada Puglace, thought it needed a moat. But today, Pearl brought her robot, Pascal, to build her sandcastle.
As Pearl explains, “He’ll do whatever I tell him—as long as I tell him in code. It’s not a secret code—it’s special instructions that computers understand.” Pearl points out the perfect spot on the beach for her sandcastle and tells Pascal to build it. But Pascal doesn’t move. Pearl realizes that she must break down the one big request into smaller problems for Pascal to solve. Easy-Peasy, Pearl thinks.
The first problem Pearl gives Pascal is: “find a place to build.” First Pascal travels out to sea, but Pearl tells him they must build on land. So Pascal rolls out into the parking lot. Hmmm…that’s not right either. Pearl decides she must be “very specific with my instructions.” When she tells Pascal to “find a flat spot on sand that isn’t too close to the water,” he marks an X on a perfect sandy spot. Great!
The second problem Pearl gives Pascal is to “gather up sand.” She’s learned to be very particular in her instructions, so she gives her robot a three-step process: “Fill the pail with sand, dump the sand on our spot, pat the sand down.” This works just right, so Pearl continues telling Pascal the directions, until she grows tired of speaking.
There must be a better way, Pearl thinks. How about a loop? Pearl directs Pascal to “loop through this sequence,” and just like that Pascal is off and rolling and Pearl gets to relax. A while later, Pearl discovers that Pascal had built a pyramid-high pile of sand, so Pearl tells him to stop. Next, they will “shape and decorate the castle.” Pearl comes back with pretty seashells to add to the castle, while Pascal brings back the lifeguard—in his chair. Pearl orders Pascal to bring back something smaller. When he comes back with a crab, she tells him it must be something that doesn’t move, and when he shows up with a baby’s pacifier, Pearl knows she must do a better job of explaining.
She decides to give him “if—then—else” instructions. With these detailed directions, Pascal returns with a shell and some seaweed. Finally, it’s time to shape the castle. They use their buckets and hands to build a beautiful castle that even has a turret. The shells, rocks, and seaweed are the perfect finishing touches. With the castle finally finished, Pearl runs off to get her toys.
But when she gets back, Pearl discovers that the rising tide has washed their sandcastle out to sea. And to make matters worse, Ada Puglace is back to add another moat. Hmmm… a moat? Pearl thinks. That’s what she needed the first time. Pearl really wants to rebuild, but it took her half a day to make the first one. Then she realizes that the code is already written. All she has to do is use it again. In no time a new sandcastle stands gleaming on the beach.
There’s just one more problem to solve. Quickly, Pearl gives Pascal a new looped sequence to dig the moat. Now it’s time to play—or “code an entire kingdom!”
A Foreward written by Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, introduces readers to this organization that is “working to close the gender gap in technology” and get girls of all ages excited about coding and future opportunities in science and technology.
Pearl and Pascal’s Guide to Coding with brief discussions of Code, Sequence, Loops, and If-Then-Else follows the text.
With his infectious enthusiasm and talent to reach kids in new and innovative ways, Josh Funk, a computer programmer by day and super writer by night, is a perfect guide to the joys of coding for young learners. Taking kids out to the beach for a bit of sandcastle building—an endeavor that is often fraught with dangers—is a terrific way to show the procedures and power of coding. Pearl’s initial missteps in programming Pascal provide laugh-out-loud moments while also demonstrating that computer programs work with precise instructions. Her inexperience but quick learning will give readers confidence in their own abilities to code and where to look for problems if their program does not run as smoothly as they’d like. When high tide washes Pearl and Pascal’s sandcastle out to sea, readers may groan in empathy, but the opportunity to do it all again—only bigger and better—will make them cheer.
Sara Palacios’s golden beach is a wide-open and inviting platform to introduce the world of computer programming to young readers. Sunny and enthusiastic, Pearl, in her heart-shaped sunglasses, is persistent and smart in figuring out just how to make Pascal do what she wants. Pascal is a round, rolling cutie, perpetually happy to perform its duties. Series of panels and speech bubbles depict each instruction Pearl gives Pascal, clearly showing readers how coding and a computer’s response to its instructions work. Sequence loops are cleverly portrayed with typeface that creates a circle around Pearl’s floating ring and later around the trench that will surround the castle and become the moat. The final image of Pearl and Pascal celebrating their successful day together is powerful encouragement that a new day of girls and women in technology and science is on the horizon.
Coding a Sandcastle is a motivating combination of lighthearted fun and accessible education that will encourage girls—and boys—to get involved with computer coding just for their own enjoyment or as a future profession. It’s a must for school media and computer class libraries, and with this book on home bookshelves, kids won’t want to just play on the computer—they’ll be asking to program too.
Ages 4 – 8
Viking Books for Young Readers, 2018 | ISBN 978-0425291986
Discover more about Josh Funk and his books and find lots of fun activities to do too on his website.
To learn more about Sara Palacios, her books, and her art, visit her website.
Web Designer Day Activity
Personalized Painted Pail
A trip to the beach or park isn’t complete without a pail to collect shells, seaweed, sea glass, pebbles, sticks, nuts, or other things in. But why should all the cool stuff be on the inside? With this craft you can decorate your pail to show your unique personality!
- Plastic or metal pail
- Craft paint in various colors
- Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating, for multi-surface use
- Paint brush
- Paint designs on the pail
- When paint is dry spray with acrylic coating to set paint
- Let dry
You can find How to Code a Sandcastle at these booksellers
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