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How to Code a Sandcastle

Author: Josh Funk
Lower Age: 4
Upper Age: 8
Year Added: 2019

How to Code a Sandcastle is a picture book by Josh Funk, intended to teach basic programming concepts to readers ages 3 and up. By breaking challenging ideas down into easy-to-understand chunks, the book relates many coding concepts to young readers, and the illustrations by Sara Palacios are eye-catching enough to keep readers’ interest. The book is based around the story of a girl named Pearl who programs (gives specific, sequential instructions) to a robot named Pascal so it can build a sandcastle for her. She used “loops” to instruct Pascal to do repetitive tasks without having her to repeat her instructions every time. She further, used “if-then-else” statements to instruct him to bring only the most suitable decorations for the castle. Later on, her sandcastle is washed away by the tide, but she realizes that using the commands she already wrote, she can have the robot do it again. On top of that, she comes up with another idea and decides to program the robot to build a moat around her castle to protect it from getting washed away again.

This book primarily covers the theoretical concept of programming, but also introduces a few coding semantics such as the concept of “loops” and “if-then-else” statements, (often referred to as the building blocks of coding), which is more than enough to get familiar with the basic concept behind coding. This book even clearly describes the meaning of coding and further, delves into how a particular problem is to be approached from the outlook of a programmer and talks about how an extremely complex problem can be broken down into simpler, smaller subsets and solved easily. It even talks about how coding a problem can help us save time and energy and further, make our tasks simpler, which is the building block of the concept of engineering. How to Code a Sandcastle takes the esoteric world of programming and makes it accessible to young readers!


Engineering thinking and design practices the gift encourages children to do or learn about:

Define a problem, Learn about the problem, Idea generation, Plan a solution, Create a prototype or process, Test the solution, Analyze a solution, Make improvements to the solution, Recognize patterns, Communicate a solution


Engineering text or context explicitly provided by the gift: 

A problem to be solved by developing a new or improved object, tool, or process, Constraints


Additional practices and skills needed by engineers that were addressed by the gift:

Computational thinking, Creative thinking, Programming/Coding, Design, Problem Solving, Perseverance


Overall ratings:

  • Engineering & STEM Experts Reviews

    • Rating: 4.5 out of 5.0

    • Feedback:

      • "I believe that for its intended age group, this gift does an incredible job of introducing them to the world of programming and engineering"