When I was a child, I remember reading — and loving — “The Phantom Tollbooth.” I realized that it was trying to teach me something, but the story and characters were so imaginative and delightful that I kept reading (and learning) regardless. I believe that Lauren Ipsum is “The Phantom Tollbooth” for the 21st Century. Instead of numbers, letters, and Milo, the story follows Laurie when — like Alice in Wonderland — she gets “mostly” lost in an enchanted world filled with delightful characters and predicaments, as she discovers the principles upon which computer science is based.
Perhaps my favorite part is when she tries to enter the town of Probability, and has to figure out how to guess the password for the pseudonym she’s assumed. Eventually she realizes that the gate keeper, who is looking up the password alphabetically in a large book, takes a little longer to refuse her entry as her the spelling of her guesses get closer to the actual password. There is lots of humor and fun situations (for us), but there are no tedious exercises, or even actual computers, here. Just an entertaining and imaginative story (and learning the principles of computer science). If you’d like to encourage your young reader to learn more about computing, Lauren Ipsumis a must.