7th October was Ada Lovelace Day. Lovelace (1815- 1852) was the only legitimate child of the poet George, 6th Baron Byron, and his wife Anna Isabella (known as Annabella) Milbanke, nicknamed by her husband "the Princess of Parallelograms" due to her love of science and mathematics. Ada's parents had a very unhappy marriage and they separated a month after her birth. Unusually for the time Ada was brought up by her mother, and her father made no attempt to enforce his legal parental right. Ada had no relationship with him.
Annabella was obsessed with educating out what she saw as Ada's possible inheritance of Byron's instability and madness, and she did this by focusing Ada's education on "rational" subjects such as mathematics and logic. Through Mary Somerville , who taught her mathematics, Ada met Charles Babbage, the creator of the "analytical engine"; a machine designed to analyse mathematical formulae. Ada translated an Italian article on the engine and added notes to it. She wrote an alogarithm for the machine to compute Bernoulli numbers (although the machine was not completed during her lifetime) and is therefore considered the world's first computer programmer.
Hacker opens with Vicky and the rest of her Year 8 class (including her adopted brother Gib and his annoying friend Chaucy) waiting to take a Maths exam. Inside the exam hall Vicky notices several people cheating, including her friend Maggie. Vicky has a programmable calculator, and writes a programme to work out interior and exterior angles and areas of shapes. Unfortunately since she finishes her exam in 20 minutes instead of two hours, her teacher assumes that she is the hacker that stole the Maths exam. She is given a letter by the head teacher to take home.
However, on returning home, she and Gib discover that something far more serious than cheating at an exam is concerning her parents. Her dad has been accused of transferring one million pounds from the bank where he works to his own account. Vicky and Gib set out to prove his innocence by hacking into the bank; however this puts Vicky in terrible danger from the real thief.
I loved this book. Not only is it a thrilling adventure, but Vicky and Gib's relationship is very believable, as is the ebb and flow of "tween" friendships. Vicky is mixed race, as is her adopted dad, and the detail of her darker skin making her feel as though she doesn't quite belong to the rest of her family rings very true. Identity and ethnicity are not the most important aspects of this book, but it is great to see that the problems needing to be solved in this story. And as children pick up the ideas of "girls' subjects" and "boys' subjects" so early, it is very positive to have a book aimed at 8+ featuring a girl computer programmer! It is unfortunate that the computing aspects of this book have dated, but I would hope that the thriller plotline and believable characters would carry young readers through.
This book is a good one for teaching Primary children about Ada Lovelace and her importance in the history of computing.