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Blog Tour: Reading Without Walls

Even adults who are new to coding are sure to enjoy Secret Coders, Gene Luen Yang's STEM graphic novel series.

Blog Tour: Reading Without Walls

When I was asked if FYA wanted to take part in the Reading Without Walls blog tour I jumped at the chance to read something that I would normally never bat an eye at. Believe it or not, reading thse books - Gene Luen Yang's Secret Coders and Jade Hemsworth's Project MC2: Smart Is The New Cool - was me stepping OUT of my comfort zone. Sure, they're written for middle-schoolers but coding? STEM? I was never particularly math-aversive, but I definitely was more comfortable reading novels than figuring out trigonometry equations.

The Official Word(s)

Welcome to Stately Academy, a school which is just crawling with mysteries to be solved! The founder of the school left many clues and puzzles to challenge his enterprising students. Using their wits and their growing prowess with coding, Hopper and her friend Eni are going to solve the mystery of Stately Academy no matter what it takes!

From graphic novel superstar (and high school computer programming teacher) Gene Luen Yang comes a wildly entertaining new series that combines logic puzzles and basic programming instruction with a page-turning mystery plot!

There's something lurking beneath the surface of Stately Academy―literally. In a secret underground classroom Hopper, Eni, and Josh discover that the campus was once home to the Bee School, an institute where teachers, students, and robots worked together to unravel the mysteries of coding. Hopper and her friends are eager to follow in this tradition and become top-rate coders. But why are Principal Dean and the rugby team suddenly so interested in their extracurricular activities?

MEET THE GIRLS OF PROJECT Mc2!

McKeyla McAlister: brilliant leader and savvy special agent for NOV8
Adrienne Attoms: culinary chemist and sweet scientist
Bryden Bandweth: technology guru and social media maven
Camryn Coyle: construction queen and engineer extraordinaire

Adorable Prince Xander is coming to town for his launch into outer space—and the students of Maywood Glen Academy can’t stop talking about it. No one even notices the mysterious new girl, McKeyla McAlister, who enrolls just before the big event.

The smartest girls at school—Adri, Bry, and Cam—think McKeyla is definitely I.A.W.A.T.S.T.—Interesting And Weird At The Same Time. They discover she is an agent for NOV8 (that’s Innovate), a top secret organization of super smart women, and her assignment is to keep the prince safe!

With the help of high tech gadgets, cool culinary chemistry, and some awesome teamwork, these girls may just save the world.

Wait, These Are MG Books?

Reading Secret Coders and its sequel Paths & Portals made me realize just how much of my analytical brain I DON'T use anymore. Guys, I was pretty stumped by the STEM equations. Or maybe I'm just an impatient old lady, but I DO know that 12-year old Amanda would've LOVED these books, as well as  Project MC2: Smart Is The New Cool. Books that encourage girls to take pride in their minds and never stop asking questions? Be still my beating heart!

In Secret Coders and Paths & Portals, Eni, Hopper, and Josh don't exactly start out as friends, but nothing makes for a solid friendship foundation more than mutual enemies, and Stately Academy is full of them! From the meatheads on the rugby team, the mean girls on the basketball team, and even the principal himself (!) our friends are going to need to put their heads and talents together in order to save the day. I really appreciated the diverse backgrounds that the kids come from; Eni is a boy in a family full of sisters and two loving parents. Hopper is bi-racial with a Chinese mom and a white dad, who are also going through a divorce. Hopper's anger about this is REAL and relatable for anyone who whose parents split up. Josh is, so far, the weakest character, going from bully-to-friend, but Hopper doesn't let him forget what a jerk he's been, and I suspect there will be a lot more character development for Josh in future volumes.

Readers are not only walked through basic coding problems, but they are also given pages to figure out the problems themselves! OVERACHIEVERS UNITE. This is a great series for kids, and for parents and kids to read together while also getting their math on.

Project MC2: Smart Is The New Cool is based on a Netflix original series (which I will now have to consume, obvs) and it ticks so many of my boxes: girlfriends, smart girls, girl spies, and cute boys who just happen to be royalty. (I would like to join your girl gang, pls. I promise that I am also Interesting And Weird At The Same Time.) At just over 110 pages, it's the perfect length for a mystery series of this reading level. I was particularly excited by the science experiments and puzzles that are in the back of the book. (What? NO I'm not going to do them at home by myself on a Friday night like a big nerd, who told you such lies??)

So have any of you already read any of these books? Teachers/librarians, have you seen them on your shelves? I'd love to hear about any other STEM titles you can recommend!

Visit the Rest of the Tour

FYA is the last stop on this blog tour, but you can read other reviews of these (and other) STEM books on the other tour stops:

September 1: Jess at Reading Nook Reviews
September 2: Samantha at Forest of Words and Pages
September 5: Jennifer at YA Book Nerd
September 6: Maria at Maria’s Mélange
September 7: Gigi at Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
September 8: Jen at Starry Eyed Revue
September 9: Cheyenne at The Hollow Cupboards
September 12: Anya at On Starships and Dragonwings
September 13: April at Good Books and Good Wine
September 14: Cindy at Charting by the Stars
September 15: Erica at The Book Cellar
September 16: Sandie at Teen Lit Rocks
September 19: Asheley at Into the Hall of Books
September 20: Daphne at Gone Pecan
September 21: Mary Ann at Great Kids Books
September 22: Kathy at The Brain Lair
September 23: Michelle & Leslie at Undeniably (Book) Nerdy
September 26: Laurie at Reader Girls
September 27: Margie at Librarian’s Quest
September 28: Victoria at Art, Books, & Coffee
September 29: Cee at The Novel Hermit

FTC Full Disclosure: I received copies of these books from Macmillan Books, but got neither mai tais nor money in exchange for these reviews (DAMMIT). Secret Coders, Paths & Portals, and Project MC2: Smart Is The New Cool are available now.

Amanda Reid's photo About the Author: Amanda R. is an East Coast girl living in California who will never stop missing a true autumn. She's a bookseller who specializes in kid and teen lit, the leader of FYA Oakland, and bakes a damn fine pie.