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The Picture Book Buzz

Invent-A-Pet - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

The last couple of years have seen an explosion in books for kids (and babies) on coding. Including delightful biographies on Grace Hopper and Dorothy Vaughan and fun books using coding to create sandcastles and plan a day at an amusement park. DK's even created workbooks on coding.

The desire to specifically introduce girls to coding and programing spurred the creation of Girls Who Code - an organization for girls in 3rd-12th grade, determined to "to change the image of what a programmer looks like and does."

For this week's #PPBF post, I'm bringing you the newest picture book on coding - Invent-A-Pet. By systematically determining the three inputs of a new machine, Katie humorously figures out how to invent the perfect pet. It's a great introduction to coding and the scientific method.


Author: Vicky Fang

Illustrator: Tidawan Thaipinnarong

Publisher: Sterling Children's Books (2020)

Ages: 3-7



Pets, animals, problem solving, coding, and STEAM.


Bunnies, pandas, and monkeys, oh my! For fans of Ada Twist, Scientist, this picture book about finding your perfect pet introduces basic STEAM and coding concepts—and some ridiculously adorable animals! Katie is an ordinary girl who longs for an extraordinary pet—something more spectacular than a simple goldfish. Then one day Katie comes home to find a gift from her mother: a mysterious machine designed to help her create that one-of-a-kind creature. Each time she feeds different items into the machine, out comes a marvelously colorful new animal—like a purple monkey, rainbow-spotted horse, and green bunny! But none of them is just right. Through trial and error, Katie figures out the formula for her absolutely perfect SURPRISE pet.

Opening Lines:

Katie was an ordinary girl who longed for an extraordinary pet.

"How about a nice goldfish?" her mom asked.

Katie refused. "A goldfish? Too common! I need a pet that's spectacular! Unique."

What I liked about this book:

After turning down her mother's suggest of a goldfish, Katie finds a magnificent machine from her mother, designed to help her "find an extraordinary pet."

Text © Vicky Fang, 2020. Image © Tidawan Thaipinnarong, 2020.

Excited, but facing a machine without instructions, Katie must figure out how it works. So, into the three numbered "input" slots, Katie adds a soccer ball, a blade of grass, and a carrot. And out pops - an odd, long-eared, green bunny.

Enthusiastically, Katie haphazardly inputs items, creating a golden beaver and blue & green stripped bee. Though indeed unique, and totally adorable, they are not what she wanted. So, she grabs her clipboard and systematically determines which aspect of a pet each input controls.

Text © Vicky Fang, 2020. Image © Tidawan Thaipinnarong, 2020.

Vicky Fang and Tidawan Thaipinnarong do a great job demonstrating how a bit of trial & error and a bunch of deduction can be used methodically to determine the role of each of the three inputs. Katie changes one input at a time. After creating a rainbow spotted monkey, a really big monkey, and a purple monkey, Katie thinks she's figured the machine out. However, the next animal she creates is a seemingly random rainbow spotted cat.

Unphased, Katie is sure she's figured it out. However, she still can't predict the next three animals. I am loving the clipboard, coding, and sticky notes as she tries to master the machine.

Text © Vicky Fang, 2020. Image © Tidawan Thaipinnarong, 2020.

Eureka! Katie's notes point to the controlling factor she'd missed. Now she can create the perfect pet. However, first she has to deal with the ten unusual animals she's already created. So, Katie creates an adoption center in her driveway and successfully finds homes for them all. Wait until you see the pet she decides is perfectly extraordinary for her.

This is a wonderful book on coding, responsibility, deciphering puzzles, and persistence. It's also a great start to learning the scientific process.


- try your own coding activity with:

(3) sidewalk chalk & a water squirter (

- think about making your own pet. What would you need to add to Katie's machine to get your perfect pet?

- read How to Code a Sandcastle and How to Code a Rollercoaster by Josh Funk, and Doll-E 1.0 by Shanda McCloskey for other books on kids who code.

If you missed it, check out Vicky Fang's part of the STEAMTeam2020 June interview , find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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