Do you know a child who is mildly into science and technology and who loves a sticker book? If so, this might be just the thing for them.
The Case of the Missing Memory is one of a sequence of books which makes a good fist of embedding learning about real world STEAM topics into a narrative with engaging characters and attractive art.
Our three friends Lilli, Bea and Leo realise that they have use their super STEAM skills to fix Bea’s robot. They hold hands and say, ‘close your eyes and squeeze them tight, stars will light your way so bright’ and leap into an imaginary world where they become heroes and take on the epic quest of learning about how computer memory works. They have to climb a mountain, use a raft to cross the sea, explore an island, fix a machine and save the queen.
For each step of the journey on the way, we get to help them with a task by putting stickers in the right place on the pages. The book is targeted at children aged four to eight years old and I think the tasks are reasonably achievable for children in this age range. Most will need support from an adult to understand what they are meant to do. You won’t be able to give this to many children and leave them to get on with it. The sticker sheets are well produced and the stickers themselves will take a fair amount of peeling off and re-sticking.
I don’t think that I’m totally convinced by the quality of the writing here, but that certainly isn’t the point. And the art has clear hallmarks of being produced pretty rapidly on a computer – the characters by and large have one or two poses with adjusted facial expressions – but that isn’t going to be an unfamiliar look to children accustomed to books produced to capitalise on animated TV shows.
My concern with the book, and with the series presuming that this book is representative of the whole, is whether the knowledge being taught is pitched quite where I would need it. I didn’t quite understand why a book which was all about memory needed a task about sinking and floating for example and, to me at least, the tasks seemed to be more about coding in general than memory specifically.
The glossary at the back of the book uses terms that are taught in GCSE computing and really aren’t needed by a four-year-old – though, of course, four-year-olds love science words and certainly aren’t harmed by using them. My feeling is that children who are very committed to their STEAM interests will find many books that are more suited to their tastes and don’t have unnecessary narrative getting in the way of the non-fiction content. I think however that as a book to read along with a child to draw them into some basic learning about how computers code work you won’t go far wrong.
The Case if the Missing Memory is not going to win any awards for writing or illustration but that’s not what it’s for. Me and my son would have had a ball sitting together, enjoying the tasks and fooling around with the stickers when he was five or so and that’s a very good thing.
Shortlisted for The Week Junior Book Awards 2023: Children’s Book of the Year – STEM category
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