Lauren Ipsum


If the idea of a computer science book without computers upsets you, please close your eyes until you've finished reading.

I love fun well-written books. Lauren Ipsum is a wonderful and easy way to introduce kids to computer science concepts without computers or any technology more complex than reading a book. Preferably reading a book in a quiet spot for an hour or two.

Probably the best part, as a reviewer, is the book sells itself. Here’s one example, from their book site, which perfectly captures the spirit of the story:

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.

Lauren is a young girl who wanders away from home only to get lost and find curious adventures. Without realizing it, she bumps into logic, rounding errors, symbols, and a raft of curious people and animals in many different places.

She even runs into a traveling salesman, for those familiar with the classic traveling salesman problem in computer science (from Wikipedia: “Given a list of cities and the distances between each pair of cities, what is the shortest possible route that visits each city exactly once and returns to the origin city?”). Except the book presents the problem in a simple way kids will get immediately. Plus the actual traveling salesman in the story is kind of interesting.

The book itself is a series of short adventures as Lauren finds her way home. Stories are built around a metaphor to summarize ideas found in computer science. It makes the book more fun and readable. Stories and metaphors are like sneaking peas into the blender when you make a milk shake for your kids. Except the book reads fine as stories if you do not stop to think about the concepts. Teachers and parents could easily help kids jump from the story to real world examples of computer science problems. But it’s not required to enjoy the book.

Perhaps the biggest benefit from reading this book? It restores computer science to the realm of ideas and practical solutions to common problems. Technology is simply an expression of some computer science ideas, but not all. The book makes computer science fun and weird and interesting again. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. And I also made a point to call my local bookshop to order the book and pick it up, to make the experience even more personal and less digital. Somehow ordering a book like this online feels wrong.

The book is written by Carlos Bueno, a software engineer at Facebook, with line illustrations by Ytaelena Lopez, his wife. The book’s ISBN number is 9781461178187 and it costs about $15 for the paperback.

Learn More

Lauren Ipsum

Facebook Engineer Turns 5-Year-Olds Into Hackers (Wired)

Carlos Bueno

Ytaelena Lopez

Lauren Ipsum (No Starch Press)

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