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Book Review: Scratch 1.4 Beginner’s Guide
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Author: Michael Badger

Publisher: PACKT

ISBN: 978-1-847196-76-7

Published: July 2009

 

Available from: http://www.packtpub.com/scratch-1-4-beginners-guide/book/mid/130709v31a3s

 

I read recently that when writing for the web, you need to get to the point quickly because ‘Generation Y’ doesn’t have time for pre-amble and nice background stuff. So here goes…

If you are remotely interested in learning to program in Scratch or helping your kids learn to program in Scratch, you should buy this book. It is great.

How’s that for brevity?

But I’m sure if you’re genuinely interested in buying a book, you can spare more than three seconds to read someone else’s opinion before parting with your hard-earned cash. First let me tell you a little bit about Scratch.

Scratch is a free programming language developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab (visit http://info.scratch.mit.edu/About_Scratch for lots more details and links to the download page – for Generation Y, assuming you are still reading, here is a link to a 30-second video giving an overview http://vimeo.com/2106986). Scratch is fun and easy to use and a great way to learn about programming or teach programming to kids, but enough about Scratch, what about this book?

The author, Michael Badger, is an experienced author and his experience definitely shines through. This book was a pleasure to read and Michael’s humour kept me amused and entertained throughout. The exercises are well-crafted and well-paced, guiding the reader through a series of tasks that gradually introduce new programming concepts and Scratch features. The concept of bugs and debugging was beautifully illustrated through a soccer-ball-heading game that resulted in some unexpected behaviour and a challenge to the reader to figure out the problem and find a solution. As always, Michael provides the solution later on in the section with a full explanation. If, on occasions, I felt lost in an exercise, the confusion was quickly cleared up in the “What just happened” section that followed.

The production of this book is nearly flawless and the proof reading and editing team have done a fantastic job, although I’m not sure who was responsible for the little message at the bottom of page 99: “I leaned how to use some additional markup tools in acrobat!.” My money would be on the proof reader. Oops. The fact that that was the only error I could find worth pointing out is a testament to the quality of this work.

The frequent Pop quizzes are a good and, although for the most part, the questions are quite easy, on at least one occasion I would have liked a list of answers to check against rather than having to skim back over the text I had just read; but these are minor niggles and I’m sure Michael could easily put a list of answers on his http://www.scratchguide.com/ site.

Reading this book won’t teach you how to write video games (at least not the sort I’m used to playing), but it is a great introduction to the world of programming and will give you the basic understanding you’ll need to get started. If you want your kids to get more from the internet than access to mindless Facebook games, YouTube video blogs, and Tweets, I recommend you give this book a go and get Scratching.

I’m a big fan of Scratch and this is a fantastic book. I’m looking forward to working through the exercises once more with my daughter when she’s a little older.


Posted 08-25-2009 10:27 p.m. by David Roys

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