story by Carlos Bueno; illustrations by Ytaelena López
I don’t quite remember how I first stumbled across the website for this little gem of a book, billing itself as “a story about computer science and other improbable things”. But I’m very glad I did. I was so intrigued by the pedagogical approach, and the sample chapters seemed so much fun, that I ordered one (even though I am not exactly the target audience).
I wasn’t disappointed! Lauren Ipsum follows the adventures of Laurie as she gets lost in a strange place called Userland and then tries to find her way home. It’s quite reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland (intentionally so, I think)—but with the goal of enlightenment rather than confusion.
Along the way, the reader is gently introduced to a lot of important ideas in computer science, each boiled down to its essence and presented through the experiences and conversations of the characters. There are no definitions, no theorems, no exercises, just a fun story that happens to involve some interesting ideas.
I think Bueno hits it right on the head—the story really is a lot of fun, and the ideas are presented in creative, lucid, and curiosity-inspiring ways. It would make a great gift for any ten-year-old girl you know—indeed, I think I might buy a copy for one or two that I know!
I’ll leave you with this quote from the preface, which perfectly sums up the philosophy and tone of the book:
The truth is that computer science is not really about the computer. It is just a tool to help you see ideas more clearly. You can see the moon and stars without a telescope, smell the flowers without a fluoroscope, have fun without a funoscope, and be silly sans oscilloscope.
You can also play with computer science without… you-know-what. Ideas are the real stuff of computer science. This book is about those ideas, and how to find them.