Book Review: Gabi’s If/Then Garden by Caroline Karanja

It’s refreshing to see a book about coding that embeds computational thinking into the natural world of gardens and growing food. Particularly for younger children, understanding coding as a powerful thinking tool for problem-solving, paired with an emerging identity of concern and advocacy for the natural world is an ideal way to encourage girls into ways of thinking about computers as tools.of sustainability.

The author, Caroline Karanja is a developer, creator and designer who also drives and supports projects with social impact.  This book promotes the idea that every lived experience has the potential to make us better coders, and this is shown through the characters Gabi and Adi. The colourful illustrations by Ben Whitehouse will appeal immediately to a younger audience.

I reviewed the digital edition but I imagine that the physical book could be read aloud to a group of children in a classroom too.  It could equally garner attention as read-to-self book, making an eye-catching display to attract young readers as part of a library Makerspace book collection.

The book has boxed text included throughout the story that expand and explain the coding concepts at key points.  These appear as the concepts are encountered in the text, so they might interject with the flow of storytelling, if reading aloud to a group. These explanations might be something to return to after the story has been shared.

Educators could also pair reading this book, with a physical unplugged coding/computational activity based on the activity included at the end of the book.  If your school is lucky enough to have a produce garden on site or nearby, educators could take children into a vegetable garden or orchard for some if/then code-inspired harvesting!

As a book that invites children outside to think about how coding can aid our perception and understanding of the natural and everyday world around us, this is a unique, simple and visually beautiful book for young children.

Gabi’s If/Then Garden by Caroline Karanja, illlustrated by Ben Whitehouse, will be published by Capstone. ISBN 9781515834458.

This book has a publication date of 01 September 2018. This review was based on an advanced reading copy via NetGalley.

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