Posts tagged ‘computers’

ARA ROCKETS TO SUCCESS

Ara the Star Engineer

Written by Komal Singh

Illustrated by Ipek Konak

I loved this picture book which featured a determined young girl named Ara. She is aptly named for a constellation that contains seven stars. Ara is obsessed with big numbers. She introduces her readers to a number with 100 zeros, a googol. Together with her computer robot, DeeDee, Ara sets out to find out how many stars exist. They visit Innovation Plex, where Ara seeks experts to help her in her quest.

She meets Kripa, a problem solver, in the Data Center who tells her to have courage. Big Problems are solved with a plan. Next, she greets Parisa in the Ideas Lab, who creates the algorithms that permit computers to solve big problems. The next stop is the Coding Center where Diane writes code that allows the algorithm to communicate with the computer. When Ara and Dee put the plan into action, they come up with an error. So Ara visits Maria, the Troubleshooter, who installs more computing power with a new processor and memory chip. At last, they achieve success. Ara learns that collaboration and teamwork solve problems.

At the end of the book, readers find a journal record of the steps Ara followed as well as an introduction to some superheroes in computer science. There is also a glossary of technical terms from the story. The author targets this book for ages five through seven, though I would highly recommend it for older boys and girls as well. The design of the book features many bright colors and multicultural female role models. They certainly draw the eye inward but may be a bit too much stimulation for the younger reader. Hope to see many more books in this series.

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PULLING THE PLUG

Hubert in Heaven: A high-tech angel gets his wings

Written by Barbara Roman

Hubert is a hologram in a video game being shot toward the moon. He misses the mark and finds himself in heaven instead. The Grand Master of the Transition works with newly arrived angels, assigning them tasks to achieve before earning their wings. Hubert depends on his computer. He finds himself a failure painting rainbows because he enhances the colors. The Grand Master patiently assigns Hubert a new task, that of choir director, but computer generated music from earth does not cut it in heaven. Hubert is given another job, the very important one of shining up the stars and preparing the Star of Bethlehem for Christmas. This results in the greatest failure of all. Will Hubert ever find his unique talent? Can he learn to fit in with the human inhabitants of heaven?

This book is a quick read. There are a few illustrations to assist younger children in following the tale and its lessons, but the story is more suited to middle grade readers. It serves as a reminder that each person possesses unique talents, if he is willing to work hard to develop them. The author reminds readers of what can be accomplished without computers; sometimes pulling the plug is not a bad idea.

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NUISANCE NERD

Jaden Toussaint, The Greatest: The Quest for Screen Time

Written by Marti Dumas

Illustrated by Marie Muravski

JadenToussaint,pic

This is an early chapter book consisting of seven short chapters, plus black and white illustrations, perfect for early readers in elementary grades. The Prologue introduces each character with an illustration and a brief character profile.

Protagonist Jaden Toussaint is a kindergarten student who is different from the rest of his family. Mom, dad, and older sister love to read, but precocious Jaden thinks that the trouble with books is that they make you feel lonely and left out. Jaden loves interacting with people and animals; he enjoys conducting scientific experiments. One day Jaden is being persistently annoying so his father reluctantly gives him his cell phone. Jaden immediately decides using a screen is the way to his destiny.

Jaden is only in kindergarten, but he thinks Mrs. Bates, his teacher is wonderful. When the class gets homework, Jaden tries to convince his parents that computer time is mandatory, but they disagree. Jaden finds an innovative way to convince them to change their minds.

Young readers will enjoy Jaden’s clever way of manipulating adults. This book with black and white illustration and appealing characters with short chapters provides a good choice for reluctant readers and children like Jaden who normally don’t want to pick up a book. Teachers could use the short chapter format spread over a week to do classroom read aloud and discussion. Has the mark of a promising series.

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STRANGE BUT EFFECTIVE

Mr. Planemaker’s Flying Machine

Written by Shelagh Watkins

Mr.Planemaker'spic

When I first started reading this book, I was unsure of what to expect. At the beginning of the story we meet what seems to be an ordinary family living in Pierton, England. Soon the reader learns that the father, Mr. Planemaker is seriously ill. The successful builder becomes depressed at his forced early retirement and seeks a hobby, which turns out to be making a model airplane. Some very strange things happen when he tries to teach himself how to research the internet to lay out his plans. He has mystifying dreams that involve colleagues seeking to entice him to enter a dark and grey house which then miraculously disappears. A kitten suddenly materializes in his car and strange talking characters like A. Leon Spaceman appear on the computer. Is he going crazy?

On the day his model airplane kit arrives, Mr. Planemaker passes away. Here I feared the story was going down hill. Part Two takes a whole new turn. Now the children assume center stage. Emmelisa and Dell Planemaker are now nine and twelve struggling to overcome difficulties with peers and adjusting to a life without their father. Emmelisa is being bullied at school because she refuses to join the gang led by Mayja Troublemaker. Her brother has moved to middle school and no longer can protect her. She keeps all this to herself and as a diversion decides to pass time by using her father’s old computer now hidden in the attic. To her surprise, she learns that her father has a whole set of plans and hidden secrets within it. Their mysterious family cat named Cosmos helps the children to unlock them. They discover its secrets by stepping into the computer itself and taking a real tour of the inside of a computer in nanosecond time. While inside the computer, the children discover their father has left them a mission to follow his “trail of light.”

Here is the third part of the story in which the reader is taken on a space flight on their father’s original model plane kit which the CPU staff has put together for them. They train there as astronauts, but their space flight will be controlled by Astrow Naught and Mission OnControl. The children learn a lot about the space station while they whiz pass all the planets and observe comet behavior. There are lots of surprises on the journey leaving in doubt their ability to find their father’s trail and make a successful return journey home before their mother notices that they are missing.

This book is a strange mixture of elements, coming of age, bullying, grief issues, computer knowledge, metaphysics and realism. I can’t explain why, but ultimately it works. The author successfully grips the reader into being a willing captive to the personalities of the characters and the strange twists and turns of the story line. Critics might say that it is rambling; yet valid issues are addressed and a great deal of information is relayed. Tweens and teens interested in any of these issues will find it to be a satisfying read. The quirkiness of the novel kept me glued to it because I could not figure out what would happen next. My bottom line is this book is really different; give it a look.

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