Sophie Deen, Agent Asha: Mission Shark Bytes, illustrated by Anjan Sarkar

Walker, 2020, ISBN 978-1-40638-272-3

Eleven year-old Asha Joshi is an ace coder. Her constant companion is an annoying but endearingly funny and anxious toy hamster, Tumble, which she created when she was six, using a motherboard from an old games console and a teddy bear. Her nannybot Drone is also always with her, its function to make sure she does her homework. Asha has never told her mum and dad that she has been hacking Drone for years, to get away from annoying parental controls and to help keep her out of trouble. Like Tumble, Drone too is in a permanent state of anxiety. Over breakfast with her parents and sister Asha hears on the news about that Iceland has lost access to the internet, something to do with undersea cables. Her brain starts whirring. Then she receives a coded secret message that directs her to the local library. Before long she has been recruited by the Children's Spy Agency to discover the cause of the problem. Dangers abound, not least the unscrupulous plans of a world-famous teenage tech genius and her fearsome sharks. Can Asha save the world's communication systems, armed with little more than a farting selfie stick?

Sophie Deen has received a number of awards for technological innovation. She helped with the creation of the primary school coding curriculum and founded Bright Little Labs. Her knowledge of and passion for science and technology shine through in this fast-paced adventure, the first in a series. It is mapped onto key stage 1 and 2 National Curriculum computing concepts such as algorithms and debugging, but with such a light touch that readers will absorb huge amounts of valuable information, for example about coding, internet safety and fake news, without realising it. With masses of intriguing illustrations, plentiful humour, an interesting accompanying app and a great protagonist (how fantastic to have a female Asian STEM hero), Mission Shark Bytes is a highly enjoyable novel that will help build the appeal of coding, STEM and critical thinking.