About the Author
Hello Ruby is a lovely story about a girl on an adventure by an author hoping to inspire girls to learn to code. It is written by Linda Liukas, who at the age of 14 living in her native Finland, became interested in Al Gore (former US vice President) because of their mutual passion for the environment. She had to teach herself coding so that she could make a website dedicated to Gore so she took a coding class, but it was very basic and she found it frustrating.
She was first inspired to write the book when she discovered the programming language called Ruby, created by Yukihiro Matsumoto. Liukas would doodle sketches of “Ruby” as a 6-year-old girl and then try to imagine how Ruby would explain something in her own words. When Liukas began posting some of her Ruby sketches on the blogging site Tumblr, other users encouraged her to tell stories about Ruby and suggested Liukas write a children’s book.
There are also Scandinavian influences in her work. As a child, she was enthralled with the storytelling of Astrid Lindgren (author of the Pippi Longstocking tales) and Tove Jansson. Although she had no formal art training when she started, her passion for the project carried her through to expand her drawing skills and you can see that the book illustrations are charming.
Liukas started a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to allow her to self-publish the first 500 copies of the book. Buoyed by parents who wanted a way to explain the simple elements of coding to their own children, Liukas exceeded her original crowdfunding goal raising more than US$380,000 against her US$10,000 target.
Liukas also gave a TED talk, filmed in October 2015, which has been seen by over 1.5 million people. In it, she describes her approach to teaching kids about computers.
In future volumes of Ruby’s adventures, Liukas intends to add Julia, a character based on the American-created code language of the same name.
What’s in the book?
Through Hello Ruby, kids are introduced to the basic concepts of programming. They learn how to collaborate, spot a problem, break it down into a series of simpler steps, use algorithms, and debug. They’re introduced to abstract concepts like loops, lists, and variables.
Research into learning suggests that children can learn very well using narratives, so it makes sense to introduce kids to mathematical and computer concepts using story. Along with Ruby’s story, children also get to look at Liukas’s beautiful illustrations of Ruby, her animal friends, and the lost collection of valuable gemstones that play a big role in the plot of the story.
Hello Ruby also includes a corresponding activity book. If you read the e-book version, the activities are printables. The workbook is in the style of the popular “wreck this book” notebooks, designed to be scribbled on and interacted with in a fun, hands-on way.
In the very near future, the current theory is that kids won’t be considered literate if they can read and write but can’t code.
Why Girls Should Learn Code
In the very near future, the current theory is that kids won’t be considered literate if they can read and write but can’t code. Children around the world are beginning to learn coding in school. Israel, the United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark, and Germany are some of the countries with coding written into the school curriculum.
As for girls, according to Liukas, it’s simply a myth that male brains are more suited to coding than female minds. “Ada Lovelace was the first ever programmer. She was the daughter of Lord Byron and had a mathematician mother. It was those roots in numbers and poetry that helped her create the first programming language,” Liukas has said.
Ultimately, programming is a work of creativity, so by teaching girls to code, we are giving them another tool for self-expression as much as we would be giving them paper, crayons, and pencils.
Key Messages In the Book
Liukas teaches us that computers and coding are for everyone. We learn that the world of coding doesn’t have to be cold, lonely, and boring – it can be creative, interactive, and fun. We discover that complicated problems can be broken down into a series of smaller steps. It also has a message of diversity, cooperation, and inclusion, as the characters learn to work together.
The other part which is great, is simply a message of not giving up. Ruby is presented with a tough challenge and she has no idea where to start. I’ve read this to Nina and Violet a number of times and while they are still too young to pick up more complex ideas, the love the concept of a mission set by Dad, and an adventure to find the missing gemstones.