/ Cory Doctorow / 6 am Mon, Dec 29 2014
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  • Lauren Ipsum: The Phantom Tollbooth meets Young Ladies' Illustrated Primer

    Lauren Ipsum: The Phantom Tollbooth meets Young Ladies' Illustrated Primer

    Lauren Ipsum is an absolutely brilliant kids' book about computer science, and it never mentions computer science—it's a series of witty, charming, and educational parables about the fundamentals that underpin the discipline.

    Carlos Bueno's Lauren Ipsum started life as an independent book (which was the subject of a bizarre botwar between a series of Amazon price-bots in 2012), but is now available in a No Starch Press edition.

    The story opens with young Lauren running into the woods behind her house after a fight with her mother about whether she's going to summer school. She meets a pack of vicious, yappy dog-creatures who turn out to be wild jargons, and they chase her through the woods until she is thoroughly lost. She meets the wandering salesman, who is trying to figure out how to visit every city in Userland -- the strange kingdom she's run to -- and who offers her some seemingly helpful advice.

    Lauren is on her way on a journey through Userland, meeting all sorts of funny people and creatures who pose riddles and challenges that teach everything from composition/decomposition to algorithms, heuristics, brute force and elegant problem solutions, solution- and problem-spaces, recursion, branching searches, and much more. Each one is more charming than the last (there's a generous selection of sample chapters here), and each one is as informative as it is charming.

    Filled with wit and wordplay, Lauren Ipsum is a lively and timely introduction to computing fundamentals that wisely avoids mentioning computers altogether. It's still a little beyond my nearly-seven-year-old, but not by much (for example, we had a great time going through the "poetry" section in which Lauren learns to write algorithms), but not for long.

    Lauren Ipsum: A Story About Computer Science and Other Improbable Things

    -Cory Doctorow

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