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Lauren Ipsum Paperback – November 20, 2011
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"Inspiring students to become the developers, engineers, and innovators who will create solutions to some of the Nation's toughest challenges." -The White House
"Lauren Ipsum is part of a much larger movement that seeks to bring programming skills to, well, everyone." -Wired
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The exceptional part of this work is that it is an accessible introduction to computer science and how the various systems work. While this is not the first attempt I've seen at directing kids into the fascinating world of computer science, this is the first one that doesn't stumble on presenting complex topics such as math as a workbook or otherwise try to explain binary in a "textbook" sort of way.
Everything is presented in a very Alice in Wonderland style of story where every concept is explained from a character's point of view and uses characterizations to convey or represent specific concepts. In the case of binary, Carlos presents the ways that it is used first showing it in action, with our heroine, Laurie, asking the "how does it do that?" question which gets explained clearly by another character. Covering things like algorithms, encryption, security concepts, precision and heuristics, even presenting how to work on a timing attack. Userland is also described beautifully and makes some, not as obvious as other, attempts at explaining how computer systems are organized.
As an adult, I enjoyed the read. It was fun to go through and constantly going back through the chapters going "Ahh, I see what you did there!" All in all I highly recommend this book for anyone, not just kids.
My problem with it was that it fell just short of what could have been wonderful: Lauren doesn't seem to have much personality or much of a response to anything. She's become a cardboard character - and she didn't need to be. It's all potentially there in the story. If the book is read aloud, this can be added in by the narrator, but it could have been on the page.
I think this would make a neat film.
I am a computer programmer by trade, and I recognized all the references to classical computer science problems and lore in this Alice in Wonderland style book. I enjoyed the book so much that I bought a paperback copy for my Godson, who is learning about computer programming in elementary school. I know he won't get the references, but I plan to check in with him on his progress reading the book and talk with him about the problems Lauren helps solve.
Other reviewers have mentioned the illustrations as a point of weakness. I have to agree with them, even though I'm sure the illustrator put a lot of work into them. They are interesting and beautiful, but somehow, to me, the illustrations do not quite fit the spirit of the book. One specific illustration has a character with a sharp knife on her belt, and I am not a big fan of knives in books written for children.
As it was so cheap, I ended up getting it anyway.
Because of the snippets I'd heard in isolation, I really wanted to not like this book. I failed. I reckon it was probably the jargons right near the start which first dashed the idea of not liking this book...
Anyway, it's a quick and light read, but it does manage to cover a lot of ground. If you are a programmer/computer scientist, you probably won't learn much. And yes, it does have a number of computer science in-jokes and bad puns. I think that's part of its charm though.
Disclaimer: I am a software engineer, so I can't judge how it will appear to non-programmers...
I do intend to lend it to my 12 year old brother sometime and see what he makes of it.