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on 12 October 2010
I bought this book to see if I could interest my children in programming.

I'm a professional programmer and I use Python extensively in my work, so I read the book first to see if it was up to the job.

The first thing that was obvious was that this book uses Python3. The python eco-system is very gradually migrating from Python2. On reflection I think this was an excellent choice and will stop the book aging.

This book very deliberately doesn't attempt to teach the whole of Python, it sticks to an easy to comprehend subset. It doesn't attempt object oriented programming and doesn't introduce any datatypes except for lists and dictionaries.

The author uses excellent programming style given those limitations, and doesn't abuse global variables. A slight nit-pick is the use of thisKindOfVariable which isn't the python standard which is this_kind_of_variable.

The author encourages the student to type in the programs listed, but to use the website to check that they have been typed in correctly. Typing the programs in is an excellent way of really learning the language, and hopefully the website will stop the frustration of the program not working. It remains to be seen how well this works in practice with my children though!

This book reminded me very much of the book that I learnt to program with, which was the BASIC manual which came with the Sinclar ZX80, and I think the author has done a really good job of attempting to produce a modern version. The author has thought carefully about exactly what to introduce and what not to introduce and to try hard not to over-complicate things.

I'm looking forward to trying this book out with my children.
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on 16 May 2010
This book is totally appropriate for someone who has never programmed before. Everything is explained, right from the ground up, in a lively, interesting style which doesn't dumb things down.

In terms of the language Python, not all aspects of the language are described - only the parts that are absolutely necessary to know to create games. A reader who wants to learn more about programming should definitely start off with this book first, and then supplementing that with other books specifically about Python (or other programming ideas) if they find they have an interest in that direction.

Topics covered
The first ten chapters do a brilliant job of leading the reader through the creation of many small games in the text console, which cumulatively cover all the basics of programming: variables, datatypes, expressions, strings and their methods, booleans and if statements, loops, functions, variable scope, lists, dictionaries, string formatting, ASCII. You will use these to create text games such as hangman and choose your own adventure.

Chapter 11 explains Cartesian co-ordinates and some arithmetic that will be used later on.

Chapter 12 to 15 then create one new game per chapter, using the techniques learned so far, adding a great description of how to create simple but effective artificial intelligence.

Chapters 16 to 18 then break out of the text console, using the pygame library to display a window with coloured rectangles, polygons, circles and bitmaps. It then covers methods of animating these images, reading the keyboard, basic 2D collision detection, reading the mouse, bitmaps and scaled sprites, and creating music.

The final chapter caps the whole thing off with a final big game that incorporates all the techniques discussed, with music and the works.

Overall, I can wholeheartedly recommend this book for it's target market: Kids who want to learn to program, specifically so they can create their own games. Adults who have never programmed before will also find it very useful, although there may be a couple of chapters they can skim over.

Incidentally, Python is a hot language that is used by many professional software developers, so this is a very useful and relevant first language to learn.

Inspirational and brilliant.
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on 17 August 2011
If you are interested in learning how to program in code or you are new to Python this book is perfect for you. The book is so appealing and flexible in approach that makes it a winner. It is written in a friendly style that you feel as though the author is speaking to you.

I think it is fantastic that there are so many additional resources to accompany the book available through the book's website, the author really does seem to have thought of everything.

Straight away the first chapter gets you programming with having to know all about programming concepts. Each chapter presents you with a programming task to write in Python where the code has already been written, then explains how and why it is written. Each chapter is the right length to practice each new stage. At the start of each chapter it explains what the principles of the chapter are and then there is a summary at the end of each chapter.

Also, the Python programming language is a free download that works on pretty much any computer.

I am a teacher at a high school in the U.K. I teach children ICT and Computing to children from age 11 years to 16 years. We have only recently tuned into the concept of computer programming for everybody. We have been teaching Scratch for about 4 years now, but I really wanted something that was more like console programming and have looked at a few different programming languages. That was until I discovered Python - and then this book. Highly recommended.
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on 1 September 2012
I think this is a brilliant book if you want to learn to programme. The are a number of reasons for this

Unlike a lot of books the author does not lose sight of the fact you are a beginner.Some authors
move to quickly or presume to much about the knowledge of the reader.So you end up getting stuck a few chapters in

It is written for python which experts reckon is the best language to understand for a beginner as well as being very powerful

The book is interesting ,it teaches you through games.I find it a lot more intresting if you have projects and games to create

The author is good a teaching and writes in a relaxed,informal manner

The book has a website that has videos,code example and a code breakdown/Tracer(which tells you what each line of code does)
the website is good as helps learn the code in the book through differnt teaching methods
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on 21 November 2013
I was excited when I started working with this book since, like other reviewers, I too learned a lot about programming years ago by typing in game programs from magazines. However, while the author is a good programmer, he is not a very good teacher. If you get the free version of this book, then it's good value. But if your're going to spend money, look elsewhere.

A good programming book will explain a concept, give you a chunk of code to try it on, and then move on to the next bit of code. Repeat this a few times, and you both understand how the code works, and you have built a little game. An example of a book which teaches code properly is Python Programming for the Absolute Beginner, by Michael Dawson.

What this book does is present a program in its entirety. You can type it all in or download it from the author's website. The problem is that it gets very tedious typing in 50 odd lines of code when you don't understand what it's doing. Then the author explains the whole program section by section. Again this gets somewhat tedious. I gave up after typing in 5 pages of code for the hangman game.

It would have been far more sensible, and easier on the learner, to have the learner type the programs one section at a time, followed by the explanation of that section.

If you are a somewhat experienced programmer looking for a cookbook of ideas, this might be useful. But if you want to learn to program, then look elsewhere.
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on 19 April 2012
I recently purchased this book for my 12 year old nephew with the aim of giving him the help I would have dearly loved when I was his age.

Having had the book for just one day he has already started chapter 4 and is racing ahead.

He is very happy.
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on 1 May 2013
I have bought and read books on C, C++ and JavaScript prior to buying this book and this book is my clear favourite of the bunch.

I like this book best because:

1. It shows how to make fun little games.
2. It shows you the whole program at the start of each chapter and let's you type it in (but can also be downloaded) and then walks you through every single line and explains very clearly what each line does in the context of the program.
3. The author never uses any code or techniques that are beyond the scope of the book or the target audience.
4. The author also shows you how to use a debugger. He explains breakpoints and stepping through, over and out of functions and how to find out what your variables are at any point while your program is running.

Al Sweigart does a fantastic job at teaching the Python language and good, sound programming practices all the while giving you a fun engaging experience of making games. Game programs you can understand eaisly and even tinker with. The games are fun and but only text based, it's not until the end of the book that graphics are talked about. I this was wise thing to do becuase it's good to have a solid foundation in basic programming before you move on to the game oriented libraries.

The author has a friendly way of teaching that is not hand holding, but neither does it go above you understanding. Most of all it covers the topics it teaches thoroughly. All in all a very good book. Plus the book's website is very useful and includes all the source code and a very handy diff tool that you can enter in your code and find all the differences between your code and the original code from the book, which helps you to find any spelling errors you might have made if you entered the code yourself.
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on 11 May 2010
I'm far from the end of this book but up 'till now I have no complaints about it. It is what a book about a programming language should be, without putting you to sleep. You start writing small pieces of code and things start to happen and that motivates you to write a few more, read one more chapter and before you know it, you're already a bit autonomous. For extending this, the author also dedicated some time (and a whole chapter) about using the debbuger.

Besides this, the author has a very interesting website were you can go and compare your code with the original code, when something doesn't work.

Of course that there are some chapters were you won't play or do any game, instead you will learn, but always with some humour, about some rules, variables, functions and what not... But the basic idea is that while you type in the code lines needed to make a game, you're already seeing how it can be done and then, the author starts to explain line by line the code and the choices to do what you did.

I gave him 4 out of 5 starts only because at a certain moment the book follows the games path a bit too much for what I wanted, with you having to install Pygame and re-learning or adapting what your learned to it. Since my idea isn't making games, that part of the book while interesting is not really for me!
Apart from that, this book is a must read to someone new to programming and Python, that wishes to learn in a relaxed and fun way!
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on 25 April 2013
Going back 30 years, programming in Basic from magazines on the speccy ..what fun! .. well I think this book brings the same joy to the current generation.. The book takes the (right) approach of learning by doing, getting to write code and games without needing to understand everything from the start.

Each chapter a game with the source code to write out, and when done the chapter then talks about the constructs in really good detail.

Especially with children they need to see the reward without spending too long writing the code so the beginning chapters are especially perfect. My 8 yr old found some of the explanations a bit difficult so we kind of skipped over them once the basic understanding was there (why not?!) we then spent the time 'hacking' the games to try new ideas out and learning that way.

Here using Python, which although a 'proper' language, is a good bet because its accessible esp important for children and if the interest is there they can stick with the language without needing to move to another necessarily.
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on 4 May 2013
Likely useable for many people wanting to get their kids into Raspberry-Pies and programming. Great book, I prefer having a printed copy handy as a reference (a bit like entering listings from magazines in my day). The examples are well explained and educational and even enjoyable for an old 'C/C++' programmer like myself.
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