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Lauren Ipsum Paperback – Nov 20 2011
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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.
If you are even slightly interested in engineering, computer science or maths, you should give this book a try. I don't love many books, but when I do they have Turtles!
If you are a person who has a solid background in computing and programming, but haven't been able to get some concepts across to the curious non-programmers in your personal circles of influence, this book could provide a good structure for you to use to ground certain concepts in ways that are free of the jargon you might use without thinking when trying to explain concepts to those people.
Much like a children's story book where the moral of the story of a child's book often is lost on the child unless the topic is discussed with them and reinforced in other ways, so too with this book. I do think this book would be most useful if used that way, but I'm not convinced that it could be successfully used to convey its concepts without that kind of external guidance: the abstraction from computing and programming is useful, but perhaps too successful to enable it to be used as a direct learning experience on its own.