May 22, 2024

Please let The Friendship Code and its tech-savvy girls be the new Baby-Sitters Club

Okay, full disclosure, I never read any Baby-Sitters Club book. But you know what I’m talking about, right? We all had some endless series we read where a few kids just like us navigated the vicissitudes of life, teaching us lessons along the way. I’m hoping that The Friendship Code, which aims to do that — but with tech and coding woven in — will become that series for at least a few kids.

The young-adult novel, first in a planned series of who knows how many, takes place in the real world, where phones, coding, apps and all that are just a part of how things are. The protagonist, Lucy, is a math whiz who wants to learn how to code, but finds that neither it nor the people she learns alongside are quite what she expected.

Yeah, it’s much like any other YA fare where Protagonist is an X who wants to learn Y but must overcome Z. But it’s heartening that now there’s one that’s inclusive, realistic and optimistic. Can you imagine reading any of these sentences in Sweet Valley High?

I was finally in sixth grade. I was finally going to my very first coding club meeting!

I was going to be a computer programmer, just like my mom. Anjali always joked that my first word wasn’t “Dada,” but rather “data.”

I glanced down at my Doctor Who T-shirt.

“Put it on vibrate,” Maya said, with an exasperated look.

(Maya is the cool, intimidating 7th grader.)

How was I going to be the first black girl to win a Turing Award—it’s like a Nobel Prize for coding—for my coding skills if we didn’t actually use the computers?

We’ve got books for girls who want to be vampires, why not coders? But here’s how you know The Friendship Code really takes place in present day:

She took a jar out of the paper bag and set it on the table. “We are using sunflower butter,” she explained. “In case anyone has allergies. But we’ll pretend it’s peanut.”

The book is one of two released today as part of an ongoing collaboration between Google and Girls Who Code. As the founder of the latter, Reshma Saujani, writes in a preface to The Friendship Code:

When I first started Girls Who Code, I realized that there was a need for books that described what it’s like to actually be a girl who codes. I always say, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” And that’s true for books, too!

Saujani herself authored the other book put online today, which is a bit more of a straightforward explainer of what coding is and how to get started.

The series looks like fun and hopefully girls like the ones in the story will eat it up. In book 2 they do their first hackathon. I can’t wait!!

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