Monday, February 18, 2019

Cover Reveal for How to Code a Rollercoaster by Josh Funk illus by Sara Palacios 2.18.19

I always love cover reveals!  Sometimes I know about a book that is going to be published but I'm not sure what the cover will look like just yet.  When I know a little about the book my mind starts thinking of possible cover ideas...  Luckily I made the right career choice because what the illustrators and the cover designers do - wow!  They come up with way better covers than what ends up in my mind.  

I am glad you stopped by today because I am so honored to be able to share with you the cover reveal for Josh Funk's upcoming How to Code a Rollercoaster book with illustrator Sara Palacios.  How to Code a Sandcastle is a huge hit in my classroom library and I've shared it for #classroombookaday in multiple classrooms and grade levels.  I'm excited to see more and more coding opportunities for all students and to see the push for more girls to explore this field.

Image result for how to code a sandcastle
How to Code a Sandcastle
written by Josh Funk
illustrated by Sara Palacios
published by Viking Books for Young Readers
available now

Now let's get to the good part, I know you didn't come by to see me ramble!  Josh Funk stopped by the blog to chat about How to Code a Rollercoaster, give us a sneak peek of the cover and chat about coding!

Mrs. Knott: Hi, Josh!

Josh Funk: Hey, Michele! Thanks for having me as a guest on Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook! I’ve been a big fan for years now!

MK: I'm grateful our friendship has expanded to burrito lunches now!  You've given me a lot of street cred with my students when I get to tell them I've had lunch with the great Josh Funk!  But let's get back to your books... Why did you decide to write a series of books about coding?

JF: Well, first off, I’m a software engineer. Yes, I write picture books, but I still have the full-time day job of writing code for a living. And for several years I had been trying to come up with a way to combine my day job and the world of picture books. While coding can be a relatively complex topic, some kids are learning coding as early as preschool.

There are loads of great fiction picture books with STEM-related topics that can certainly be used to get kids interested in the use of technology. And there are loads of resources out there to teach coding to elementary school children. It was my goal to combine the two - get kids excited about coding, but also learn some of the concepts and terminology along the way.

MK: So how did you land on a series focused on a girl and her robot as the way to do that?

JF: The truth is, the How to Code with Pearl and Pascal series wasn't my first attempt at writing a book about code. It was actually my third and a half (I’ll explain the half).

My first attempt was a sort of Alice in Wonderland / Tron mashup where a brother and sister were sucked into a computer and they needed to find a way home. They met a pointer named Arnie and a pair of witches named Iffie and Elsie (I was probably writing this around the time of the first Frozen movie), and there were loads of inside jokes and by the time I got to the plot I was already on the 40th page of the picture book, and it was way too complicated and frankly, none of my critique partners could understand it.

For that half attempt - I had always been a fan of the Sir Cumference and the Knights of the Round Table series, which takes a world that kids are likely familiar with (King Arthur) and teaches a relatively complex topic (geometry). So I thought, maybe I’ll take Greek Mythology, which more and more kids are familiar with nowadays and turn that into a picture book about coding. After enough research, I realized why there are almost no picture books about Greek Myths: there is far too much violence and adult romance for the picture book aged audience (although I love D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths if you’re looking for something).

The next attempt was a book about an amusement park - I think I called it Hello World’s Fair - about a girl and her brother who went through an amusement park and used the games and rides to talk discuss coding concepts. It was closer, but it was still too complicated.

And finally Jess Keating suggested to me that I write a ‘How-to’ book. Keep it simple. Actually build something - after all, when writing code, you are constructing a program. And that’s when it clicked. Take a kid-friendly activity (like building a Sandcastle) and look at it through the lens of a coder. In How to Code a Sandcastle, Pearl and Pascal using sequences, loops, and if-then-else’s (or conditionals) to build a sandcastle.

MK: And today we’re here to reveal the cover of the second book in the series. Can you tell us a little about How to Code a Rollercoaster?

JF: Here’s what the publisher says:

Pearl and Pascal take their coding adventures to the amusement park in this follow up picture book from our Girls Who Code program!

Pearl and her trusty rust-proof robot, Pascal, are enjoying a day out at the amusement park. Spinning teacups, ice cream, and of course: rollercoasters! Through the use of code, Pearl and Pascal can keep track of their ride tokens and calculate when the line is short enough to get a spot on the biggest ride of them all--the Python Coaster. Variables, if-then-else sequences, and a hunt for a secret hidden code make this a humorous, code-tastic day at the amusement park!

In short, the focus of this book is the concept of variables. But we still use sequences, loops, and if-then-else’s here, too. The idea is to build upon what was learned in the first book, but still be able to read this book independently.

But for all you writers out there, young and not-so-young - no writing is ever wasted. I was able to reuse a lot that Hello World’s Fair when writing How to Code a Rollercoaster. Maybe not a huge amount of the text, but the fact that I’d already thought about two characters going through an amusement park gave me a huge head start when putting it together.

MK: What was it like working with Girls Who Code?

JF: It’s been great. They didn’t come into the project until the very end, though. I wrote all of those early drafts and even all of How to Code a Sandcastle prior to connecting with them. When I sent it to my editor at Penguin (she edited one of my earlier books, Dear Dragon), she mentioned that Penguin was about announce a partnership with Girls Who Code, and would I have interest in it being a part of their program. As they didn’t have any picture books planned in the program, I was thrilled to be invited to partner with such an amazing organization with a worthwhile mission.

As I look around my day job office, and even thinking back to my days in college, there has always been a dearth of women in computer science in my lifetime. That’s why my main character was always a girl - and she was always named Pearl - both because PERL is a coding language, and my paternal grandmother’s name was Pearl.

It’s also been great having Girls Who Code there to fact check everything further to make this book as scientifically accurate as possible.

MK: And before we get to the big reveal, what do you think of Sara Palacios’s illustrations?

JF: Brilliant! Sara Palacios’s art is better than I could have ever hoped. Her portrayal of Pearl and Pascal and everyone else in the world is fantastic. I so want to go to an amusement park she designs! It’s even been suggested to me that Ada Puglace needs her own spin-off. (Ada and her potty habits play a large role in the plot of How to Code a Sandcastle).

MK: And without further ado, here is the cover for How to Code a Rollercoaster:

How to Code a Rollercoaster will be available on 9.24.19
and is available for preorder at:
Indiebound    B&N    Amazon
And you can mark it Want to Read on Goodreads here.

JF: Thanks so much for having me and revealing the cover! I hope you have a fantastic rest of the school year and I look forward to the Mrs. Knott’s Book Nook App coming next fall!

MK: Fall of 2025 maybe. Thanks for stopping by, Josh!

More about Josh:
Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as books - such as the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series (including The Case of the Stinky Stench and Mission Defrostable), How to Code a Sandcastle (and the upcoming sequel How to Code a Rollercoaster), It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk, Dear Dragon, Albie Newton, Pirasaurs!, Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude (in conjunction with the New York Public Library), and the forthcoming It's Not Hansel and Gretel, It's Not Little Red Riding Hood, and more coming soon!
Since the fall of 2015, Josh has visited (or virtually visited) over 300 schools, classrooms, and libraries. Josh is a board member of The Writers' Loft in Sherborn, MA and was the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional SCBWI Conferences.

Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and writes manuscripts.

Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys _______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.
For more information about Josh Funk, visit him at and on Twitter at @joshfunkbooks.


  1. I am SO looking forward to Pearl & Pascal’s continuing adventures! Thanks for sharing, Michele! Congratulations, Josh! 😁👍🏽