Monday, October 28, 2019

Emmy in the Key of Code

Emmy in the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido. Grades 4-7. Versify, September 2019. 416 pages. Reviewed from galley provided by publisher. 


Born to super musical parents, Emmy has always longer for musical talent but it evades her. She's not good at any instrument and has paralyzing stage fright. When her family moves to San Francisco so her dad can have a shot at his dream job, Emmy starts at a new school for the first time and she has no idea where she belongs. She has no friends, she has trouble even speaking to any of the kids, and when she's asked what elective she wants on the first day, she turns in a blank sheet of paper and lets fate decide.

Fate puts her into coding class with Ms. Delaney, a new teacher who's passionate about computer programming and the "lipstick computers", the women who started computer programming back in its infancy. Also in the class is Abigail, a girl in Emmy's homeroom who has a bunch of friends and has been singing in the San Francisco Children's Choir since she was a toddler. Emmy's hoping that Abigail will be her first new friend at school, but Abigail hides the fact that she loves computers from her other friends and hides the fact that she's friends with Emmy, too.

Coding might just turn out to be the key that Emmy's been waiting for, but even though programming languages are binary, boolean, either true or false, it turns out nothing else in Emmy's life is.

My thoughts: 

Written in verse and often including poems crafted in programming language (which increases in frequency throughout the book, allowing readers the chance to learn about elements of programming before they're extensively used in the poems), Emmy also uses a lot of musical terms. This feels so true to her character and really added to the depth of her character and helps the reader recognize how much Emmy longs to participate in the musical world that her parents belong to. All terms (coding and musical) are defined in a glossary in the back.

At its heart, this is a friendship story and the story of entering a new world and trying to find yourself. It may especially appeal to young coders, but I think there's a lot of appeal to readers of contemporary fiction (particularly novels in verse) across the board.


  • Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes (WordSong, 2013). Here's another novel in verse about a girl starting a new middle school and finding her passion with the help of a wonderful teacher. 
  • The Friendship Code (Girls Who Code) by Stacia Deutsch & Reshma Saujani (Penguin Workshop, 2017). Readers interested in more books about girls involved in coding and computer programming may enjoy the Girls Who Code series, starting with this book.