Review: Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang & Mike Holmes

secret coders by gene luen yang and mike holmes

Welcome to Stately Academy, a school which is just crawling with mysteries to be solved! The founder of the school left many clues and puzzles to challenge his enterprising students. Using their wits and their growing prowess with coding, Hopper and her friend Eni are going to solve the mystery of Stately Academy no matter what it takes!

From graphic novel superstar (and high school computer programming teacher) Gene Luen Yang comes a wildly entertaining new series that combines logic puzzles and basic programming instruction with a page-turning mystery plot!

Description taken from Goodreads.

I’ll be honest. I used this book as an excuse to meet Gene Luen Yang.

I had no idea what it was about, and I thought the cover (and the title) was somewhat lame. I had also never heard of it before. However, I was interested when I heard about it because I’m a coder myself and an advocate for underrepresented  groups in STEM.

In short, STEM stands for science technology engineering and math. Technology in particular is the focus of the modern world, and someday, everyone’s going to have to learn how to code. The failure of STEM these days though is that only 12% of women graduate from college with a computer science degree, and underrepresented populations are just that: under-served. Hundreds of organizations are working to close the gap and to teach everyone to code. I’ll paste a few links below, and I’m working on putting together a website with a resources list.

But back to the book.

I’m a huge fan of Gene Luen Yang, and I used this book signing at BEA to get the chance to meet him. It was a personal dream of mine, and I was so glad that I got the opportunity. And to boot, I got an amazing book out of it.

Sure, the drawing style of Secret Coders isn’t the greatest. It’s actually pretty crude compared to the way that Yang usually draws. What made it worse was the lack of color. The entire book is illustrated in shades of green, black and white. Despite the colors and despite the drawing style, which actually did grow on me, this book is very well done.

Secret Coders teaches the basics of binary and the logic of code in a way that’s engaging and easily understandable, and I’m proud that Yang was the writer for this. This is a fantastic novel for adults and middle-graders alike. If you’ve always struggled binary, or you have no idea what it is, I’d recommend this novel. It’s educational without being preachy, overdone, or feeling like one of Those Educational Books. That’s a feat in and of itself.

On top of all that, it has a great plot and important messages about friendship, family and middle school. There are a variety of great relationships shown throughout the novel, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things develop in the second novel, coming out this August! 4 stars.

pg count for the paperback: 96 pages

Series: Secret Coders #1

Code Resources

  • MESA USA – Math Engineering and Science Achievement – Resources to succeed in STEM education, especially for minority students.
  • Coding Dojo — Coding Dojo is just one of the countless bootcamps located across the country for people of all ages (though CD is traditionally for adults).
  • CodeAcademy — If bootcamp really isn’t your thing, go for an online source like CodeAcademy or
  • Girls Who Code & Black Girls Code — Are you a girl who loves to code but doesn’t want to learn in an environment full of boys? Go to Girls Who Code! They have free camps and a summer immersion program that are both fantastic. It doesn’t matter if you zero experience. In fact, these are programs designed for beginners. All you have to do is show up.
  • Kid Resources — Have little kids? Here’s why you should teach them to code.

If you have any questions about code, please feel free to contact me at or @elimadison2019 on Twitter!


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