Head First jQuery

Title: Head First jQuery
Author: Ryan Benedetti & Ronan Cranley
Year: 2011
For: People interested in jQuery with no previous experience in JavaScript.

To be frank, I didn’t like this book and wouldn’t recommend it. However I read it, so I’ll review it.

The Content

Being a fan of Head First JavaScript Programming, I was excited to crack open Head First jQuery. Their book on JS was an excellent introduction to JS but it lacked in examples manipulating the DOM, so the fact that their jQuery book would (obviously) be only about manipulating the DOM was an exciting prospect. However this book falls flat in comparison to my previous experience with the HF series because HF jQuery doesn’t seem to have a target audience in mind.

The first half of the book seems targeted to people who have almost no development experience at all; maybe a passing familiarity with HTML/CSS, but not much beyond that. For that reason, anyone familiar with vanilla JavaScript will probably ride a steady wave of boredom interspersed with the occasional “oh, that was cool.” The beginning of the book deals with the most simple jQuery features from toggling divs in and out of view to animating image positions. There’s also a brief, overly-simplistic overview of JS.

The second half of the book takes a turn to AJAX, XML, and JSON and requires the reader to install an AMP stack on their local computer to finish the projects. There’s a brief appendix on how to do this (seemingly aimed more to Windows users), but hardly enough for green developers. In my opinion, a lot of this could have been avoided by designing projects that used simple, external APIs to show off jQuery’s AJAX features.

As such, any experienced developer would be bored with the first half of the book and any new developer would be lost on the second half of the book. I think the authors could have done similar projects without local Apache, PHP, and MySQL, leaving the reader to follow up to HF jQuery with Head First PHP & MySQL.

The Style

The book is laid out similarly to the Head First JavaScript Programming, only with less end-of-chapter assignments. The graphics, projects, and quizzes all seem a little cheesy, but they do keep the material from being too dry as is often the case with the more thorough tech guides.

A major and valid complaint that people make regarding this book are the regular typos and code mistakes. While it’s understandable that a tech book might be a little outdated (as in this book’s usage of the Google Maps API) and even having a few letters switched around, HF jQuery makes a lot of mistakes that are less understandable. Poor code formatting, referring to an object as an array, and even some code that would 100% break a project but might be hard for new developers to spot are all examples of where this book failed from a copy editing perspective.

Summary

Head First jQuery is still in its first edition, so I assume that the typos will be corrected on the next edition. However this book should probably either be split in two (jQuery and jQuery AJAX maybe) or reworked in a way that’s less dependent on a local AMP stack, otherwise I don’t see this book pleasing any demographic.

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