In Click’d, young coder Allie Navarro is excited to show the picture-sharing friendship app she’s been working on all summer to her closest pals. She also plans to enter it in the Games for Good competition. When something goes wrong and her app begins sharing the personal information of the users, Allie must learn to work with her main rival if she’s ever going to get it fixed in time for the competition. The novel does a great job of portraying coding and app development as something any sufficiently motivated kid can do. It also emphasizes the hard work and attention to detail that are needed.
Reshma Saujani founded the nonprofit organization Girls Who Code to address gender imbalances in computer science careers. This nonfiction book covers a range of topics related to computer history, women in computer science and technology, and the basics of coding. Saujani uses a variety of formats including question and answer to break coding down into smaller concepts.
These books together create an interesting combination of fact and fiction around a current hot topic: coding, and especially women in coding. They have very different approaches to the subject, and this is reflected in the way their respective audiobooks are designed and performed.
Suzy Jackson narrates Click’d, the fiction title. She creates a solid voice for main character Allie. This young coder is confident and intelligent, which shows in the tone of the narration. When she hits a snag in her plans, Jackson does a great job of reminding the listeners that even a very smart pre-teen still needs reassurance; Allie’s inner monologue is appropriately tough to listen to when she’s wrestling with disappointment. The audiobook is a well done traditional production that should have no trouble finding an audience.
Girls Who Code is an interesting contrast as an audio production. Audio nonfiction for children is a small but growing market, and it involves some unique design challenges. For one, the print edition relies on graphics to divide the text into the main body as well as sidebars and question boxes. This is fairly neatly represented in the audio version and generally not hard to pick up on. Listeners may have more trouble with the charts and tables, which are included in PDF form. It’s smart to provide them, but the ability to use the information in the book to the fullest is somewhat compromised by not having it as part of the audio production. Saujani narrates her own work. She does not always have the smooth delivery of a professional narrator, but she’s clearly passionate about the subject.
Together, these books represent a good look into a growing body of work for kids and teens around the subject of coding and its use in everyday life. The audio productions each have pros and cons, but both are good ways to introduce coding to a wider audience.
Click’d, by Tamera Ireland Stone, read by Suzy Jackson. 5 hours, 50 minutes. Recorded Books, 2017.
Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World, by Reshma Saujani, read by the author. 2 hours, 53 minutes. Listening Library, 2017.