May 31 – Web Designer Day

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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.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

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!

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

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.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

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!”

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

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.

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Image copyright Sara Palacios, 2018, text copyright Josh Funk, 2018. Courtesy of Viking Books for Young Readers.

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

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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!

Supplies

  • Plastic or metal pail
  • Craft paint in various colors
  • Crystal Clear Acrylic Coating, for multi-surface use
  • Paint brush

Directions

  1. Paint designs on the pail
  2. When paint is dry spray with acrylic coating to set paint
  3. Let dry

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You can find How to Code a Sandcastle at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

May 19 – National Learn to Swim Day

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About the Holiday

As summer heats up and school ends, the pool and beach are natural draws for fun and relaxation. If children are going to be around water, it’s important that they learn how to swim. Today’s holiday is a great reminder to sign children up for swimming lessons if they don’t know how to swim and to go over the rules and skills if they do. Young children should never be left unattended by an adult around any water source. Memorial Day Weekend, the official start of summer, is just ahead! Have a fun and safe summer!

The Whale in My Swimming Pool

By Joyce Wan

 

A little boy runs pell-mell through the house to the pool. But when he gets to his little kiddie pool, “Whoa…” it’s already taken—I mean the whole thing—by a whale! The boy calls to his mom, who’s reading a book in a nearby chair, to tell her about the whale, but she’s more concerned about sunscreen. “Sunscreen? On a whale?” the little boy wonders.

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Copyright Joyce Wan, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillion.com.

He closes his eyes and counts to ten, hoping that by then the whale will have disappeared. But no. He tries pushing it out. But no. The boy can’t understand why the whale didn’t plop down in the neighbor’s much bigger and nicer pool. He throws a stick hoping to get the whale interested in a game of fetch, tries fishing for whale, and even tries bribing him away from his spot.

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Copyright Joyce Wan, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillion.com.

The boy has just about given up in frustration when he has an idea. He runs to get his floating ring and sunglasses and finds that sunning while held aloft on the whale’s spout is just dandy. In a while his mom calls him for naptime, and the boy slides down the whale’s back. He runs to his room only to find his bed—I mean the whole thing—by a bear (who snores)!

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Copyright Joyce Wan, 2015, courtesy of us.macmillion.com.

Joyce Wan’s adorable story is a summertime favorite that keeps little ones giggling as the little boy tries everything he can think of to budge the whale from his little pool. The boy’s attempts to move the whale echo what most kids might do to remove an obstacle, which builds a sense of camaraderie and empathy between reader and character. The boy’s ingenious solution to his problem will delight kids, and his naptime nemesis will elicit plenty of “Oh nos!” and “Not agains” from happy kids.

Wan’s bold colors, thickly outlined characters, and stylized pages will attract little ones with their high cuteness factor. Youngest readers will enjoy pointing out and naming items around the neighbor’s pool and in the boy’s bedroom, discovering the reason why the whale didn’t choose the nicer pool, and maybe even finding some foreshadowing in the boy’s floating ring.

A fun and funny book for summer or anytime, The Whale in My Swimming Pool would be a favorite addition to any child’s library.

Ages 2 – 6

Farrar Straus, and Giroux, 2017, Paperback ISBN 978-1338196672  | 2016, Board Book ISBN 978-0374301880 | 2015, Hardcover ISBN 978-0374300371 

Discover more about Joyce Wan, her books, and her art on her website.

National Learn to Swim Day Activity
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Cute Whales Coloring Pages

 

The sea is full of expert swimmers like the orca and narwhal in these printable coloring pages. Grab your crayons and give these seascapes some color!

Cute Orca Coloring Page | Cute Narwhal Coloring Page

Picture Book Review