Book Review | Merlin Raj and the Santa Algorithm by D.G. Priya | Illustrated by Shelley Hampe

A cute story about a boy with a service dog who participates in a coding competition at school.

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Merlin Raj and the Santa Algorithm: A Computer Science Dog's Tale by [D. G. Priya, Shelley Hampe]

My Thoughts

Rating: 3 out of 5.

D.G. Priya has touched upon a unique topic in this book–coding. Not many children would pick up a book about algorithms, so she has cleverly woven a beautiful story about a 10-year-old boy, Matthew, who has a cute service dog, Merlin.

Matthew and Merlin learn about algorithms at school and are required to create an algorithm for a school competition. Merlin helps Matthew through many challenges by working out algorithms of his own in his doggy mind. Merlin also seemingly works miracles by reuniting Matthew with his mother in time for Christmas.

The book has a glossary of coding terms at the end, a recipe for Mom Raj’s special Christmas Cake, a brief bio of Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace, and another glossary of difficult words used in the book. Matthew’s code is also given.

I admire the author’s effort to present a complex subject like coding to young readers. I’m not quite convinced that the oversimplification works well, especially since I had some trouble understanding Matthew’s code.

On the other hand, I enjoyed the story immensely. It is heartwarming and teaches children a thing or two about facing up to difficulties and finding solutions. Plus, a book with a handsome and enterprising golden retriever will always find a place in children’s hearts!

The illustrations are beautiful and convey the emotions of Merlin and Matthew well. I recommend this story for 8-10-year-olds as an introduction to computers and what it means to create code and break down tasks into steps.

This review was first posted on Reedsy Discovery:

Book Links:

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Amazon India


“…the more conceptual discussion of algorithms is well done, and thestory is satisfying and emotionally resonant…” — Kirkus Reviews 

My name is Merlin Raj. I have a teeny tiny weakness for socks which can make life as a service dog difficult.

Usually, I only have to worry about helping my boy, Matthew, walk at school. But when my human Mom has to go away for winter break, getting ready for the holiday becomes a mess. I might be a super-smart golden retriever who wears glasses, but could I help my best friend with more than a disability?


Will a class on algorithms get me barking up the right Christmas tree? Appealing to readers of all ages, Merlin Raj, The Santa Algorithm is the firstinstallment in this ILLUSTRATED chapter-book series. From artists to astronauts, the jobs of the future will deal with computers. 

But do kids want to read a coding book? Not as much as dog stories. 

With a Computer Science degree and a passion for preparing kids for the future, author D. G. Priya blends technology with animal stories to stimulate a desire to read. Each book in the series introduces a new programming skill. If you or your child like delightful dog tales that explores universally positive themes, including empathy, kindness,dedication, and the importance of being true to one’s self, then you’ll love D. G. Priya’s tail-wagging adventure.

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