To be completely honest, when I first picked up this book, I thought it was childish. The cover of the book was way too colourful for my liking, and the first few pages were written more for younger elementary students than middle school ones. However, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, because Spotlight on Coding Club turned out to be a fun book on friendship, maturity, dealing with anxiety and, of course, lots of coding.
What I really liked about this book (and the whole series) is that it made coding cool. According to this series, coding isn’t just a pastime for young white males addicted to computer games, but a fun hobby for girls of all ages, races and personalities. For example, coding is used by the coding club to create a voting system, design a website, program a robot to play music, and make dresses glow in the dark. (Although please be warned that coding isn’t as simple as the books make it to be. I do HTML, and I still don’t know how to add pages.)
Another great thing about the book is the friendships between the five girls. One is white, one is black, one is Muslim, one is Chinese and one is Latino. But these friendships aren’t perfect; the girls keep secrets from each other, and sometimes get into arguments. But that’s okay, because real friendships aren’t perfect.
This book also talks about family. Erin is worried about her divorced father, who has gone on a very dangerous training mission, and has remained uncontactable since February. Throughout the book, she keeps gazing at the gray dot beside her father’s name in the web chat app, and her worry for him is apparent. Erin also gets into disagreements with her mother. She doesn’t want to get another therapist for her anxiety, and hides her panic attacks from her mother.
What was really memorable about the book was Erin’s anxiety. In the blurb, they almost mentioned it as some kind of disorder: “...Erin has a secret: She has anxiety.” But in the book, I learnt that anxiety isn’t something childish to be embarrassed about. Tania, Leila’s sister, said it best: "Erin, anxiety has nothing to do with age. Adults can have anxiety, too. And it doesn’t mean they can’t handle things, or that they’re immature. It’s not necessarily something you grow out of. It’s just something you learn to manage.” For me, being an autistic girl who has meltdowns and anxiety too, reading about Erin’s panic attacks and holding onto Brave Bonnie Broomstick as a security blanket was comforting. It means I’m not the only great-coder-slash-budding-actress-who-has-anxiety out there.
This book is modern, in that texting features prominently. There are group texts, short forms, and emojis.
A very interesting part is when Maya has a crush on Hannah, a beautiful girl with dark skin, causing her to blush whenever she sees Hannah. Same-sex relationships between two non-white girls of different races do not appear often in middle-grade fiction. Some kids may also be surprised when Erin does not appear shocked, but however encourages Maya to ask Hannah out on a date. Hopefully it wouldn’t be the only middle-grade book that has LGBTQA+ characters.
To end off, if you want a book full of friendship fun, growing up and coding with the backdrop of a talent show, Spotlight on Coding Club is definitely for you!
Girls Who Code: Spotlight on Coding Club by Michelle Schusterman. Penguin, 2018. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!
Have you read this book? Or do you plan on reading it? Let us know in the comments below!