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Super Scratch Programming Adventure!: Learn to Program By Making Cool Games *****

Super Scratch Programming Adventure!: Learn to Program By Making Cool Games Featured By The LEAD Project
Published September 2012
List Price: $24.95, Your Amazon.com Price: $15.15

Amazon.com Sales Rank: 22,092
Availability: Usually ships in 24 hours

Summary:
Scratch is the wildly popular educational programming language used by millions of first-time learners in classrooms, libraries, and homes worldwide. By dragging together colorful blocks of code, kids quickly learn computer programming concepts and make cool games and animations.

In Super Scratch Programming Adventure!, kids learn programming fundamentals as they make their very own playable video games. They'll create projects inspired by classic arcade games that can be programmed (and played!) in an afternoon. The book's patient, step-by-step explanations of the code and fun programming challenges will have kids creating their own games in no time.

This full-color comic book makes programming concepts like flow control, subroutines, and data types effortless to absorb. Packed with ideas for games that kids will be proud to show off, Super Scratch Programming Adventure! is the perfect first step for the budding programmer.

GDNet Staff Review:
Super Scratch Programming Adventure is a departure from the typical books I review. For one, it is for kids. And it is written in the style of a comic book (or "graphic novel" as some soon-to-be-mentioned kids corrected me). It is a book designed to gently get kids involved in game programming using the already-gentle "Scratch" programming/animating tool for kids.

As for my reviewers, I knew I was so far out of the target demographic that I wouldn't be able to fairly review this title, so I recruited a couple of local kids to help me. My first reviewer was my ten year-old daughter, and the second was her 12 year-old male Manga-obsessed friend from across the street. I figured they would give me a good idea of how this book would appeal to kids.

My daughter was already a bit of a Scratch-adept, having taken a one-week course in it over the summer. She was also a bit lazy in her approach, as each chapter of the book is a two-page framing story followed by several pages of "how to make a Scratch program that resolves the situation in the story". There are plenty of code listings and screenshots, but since Scratch is such a colorful Lego-esque environment to start with, the code listings merge in seamlessly with the comic characters.

The book was a much better fit with boy-across-the-street. While he had been playing with the Khan Academy interactive Javascript tutorials, he had no knowledge of Scratch. He wasn't drawn in as much by the comic book story as he was by the Scratch tutorials, and within a few hours he had picked up enough Scratch that he was emailing my daughter an animated cartoon that he'd put together and posted to his Scratch web account. And the next day he emailed her a completed game that my daughter described as "impossibly difficult". But in both cases, the projects he had put together were not just examples from the book. They were original apps that he had built. Just like me as a kid using examples from "Getting Started with Color BASIC For The TRS-80", he had built the book's examples, figured out what makes the examples tick, and then went on to make his own stuff.

And that's how programmers start out!

Super Scratch Programming Adventure is a bit of a grand experiment in cultivating baby programmers. It is written for a very young audience ''' the 10 and 12 year-olds I tested the book on were probably on the upper bound of the audience. It is clearly the child of No Starch Press's "Manga Guide" series, only even more approachable and colorful, with splashy colorful listings and screenshots on every page.

The Amazon price for this book at the time of this review is under $14. You can buy a PDF version from No Starch Press's website but it's more expensive. And If you get this in the hands of the right kid, it is going to be read a dozen times and will be traded with friends and will be generally abused, so you probably want the paper copy anyway.

If you have a 6-10 year old boy or girl in your family, I unhesitatingly recommend Super Scratch Programming Adventure for their holiday gift. It is not too expensive, and if it ends up in the hands of the right kid, it will be a life-changing experience. If anything, check out the "Click To Look Inside" link on the Amazon page to see how kids' programming books should be done.

This is one of those books that, 40 years from now, experienced programmers will be sharing "oh yeah, that's the book that got me started" stories.



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