There are a lot of books trying to encourage girls to join the STEM movement and get coding. The latest in this field approaches the topic in a very different way and I think that its uniqueness will resonate with a number of readers. The book? Emmy in the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido.
The story is familiar. Girl moves from Midwest to California. She doesn’t fit in with her family, is new in school, and struggles to make friends. That works well as the baseline concept. Lucido makes this special by having both of Emmy’s parents be professional musicians while she struggles to make music with any instrument. The story is written in a mixture of verse and code.
Emmy’s innate knowledge of music and notation influence the way her mind works. Just because she doesn’t play an instrument doesn’t impact her deep love and appreciation for music (and a hidden desire that she “could” play). She thinks in musical terminology and is inspired by all things music. That must be incredibly frustrating which is why her family’s new move has inspired her to give up trying to be a musician.
So when her class must choose an elective, she doesn’t pick choir or music. She actually is so lost that she doesn’t pick anything, but is placed in comp sci where they are going to learn to code which, like music, has its own language and set of notations. There is also a group of girls that Emmy looks at longingly. They all decide that they “have” to be in choir because they are planning to audition for the exclusive “honey bees.” Little do they know that one of their members secretly decides to pick comp sci instead.
What I really love at this point of the novel is that the verse used to tell the story starts to include the code that they are learning, starting with the brackets that help us distinguish where the program or process begins and ends. As a librarian, I also really love the explanation of Boolean logic. I learned symbolic logic as a kid and then again in college. They should really teach that more, it might help kids process data better, but I digress.
The story itself of course resolves around the issues of friends, secrets, bullies, and self-esteem. They are all resolved in a way that completely fits Emmy’s character and show that we are all artists in our own way.
Emmy in the Key of Code is a wonderfully warm and comforting read. It has character and perseverance. It lets us see how differences can be beautiful and that we need all sorts of creativity to make the world work. I loved this one so much that I have preordered Lucido’s book that is coming out this fall.