Book Review : Learn to Program with Minecraft

This is a book review for “Learn to Program with Minecraft” by Craig Richardson and published by No Starch Press.

LTPWMCover

Minecraft is a hit with the kids and when you combine it with the elegance and simplicity of Python, it presents an excellent way for introducing programming to kids.

One of the first things that typically hits you when you want to prepare a package to teach the kids is to ensure that all the software is in place and organized into appropriate folders, so that the setup is not just minimal but also is intuitive enough for you to explain to the kids and for the kids to follow. This book takes extra steps on that front by making sure that in the first chapter itself : Setting Up for your Adventure, you have all the detailed steps to setting up the environment either for your PC, Mac or even Raspberry Pi. The instructions along with the ZIP files provided by the author worked well. Just ensure that you do not assume that just because you have some version of say Java, it should be fine. Take my advice and install the specific versions that the author has instructed and it works well.

The book then progresses well by explaining first about Python constructs and then applying them to do a little task in Minecraft. This approach ends up as being a refresher or learning material not just for Python but then also for the different objects and tasks that you can do inside of Minecraft.

Most aspects of Python are covered and some of these include:

  • Variables
  • Expressions and Operators
  • String Manipulation
  • Conditional Statements
  • Loops
  • Functions
  • Lists
  • File Operations
  • Object Oriented Concepts

The above Python concepts are mapped beautifully to fun things that you can do inside Minecraft. These include teleporting the players, sending chat messages, Determining where you are standing in the game, Building structures via functions, Managing a list of items and so on.

I actually tested out various parts of this book with my two sons, aged 12 and 9, and they enjoyed various aspects of it. Especially the part where you could create complex structures via loops and the teleporting stuff.

If you are looking for a good and gentle introduction to Python and how you can program bits of Minecraft, this is a great reference to get going.

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