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The Usborne Book of Secret Codes
by Eileen O’Brien & Diana Riddell
With this book of crafty codes, you can discover ways of sending top-secret messages that will leave snoopers completely baffled. Many of the codes are based on those used by real spies. There are nifty gadgets and lots of hints on how to keep your enemy stumped. As you learn new codes, you can follow a thrilling story involving undercover agents and secret code experts.
As readers learn about codes, they can also follow the story of “The Tomb of the Cursed Tongues.” Follow Agent A as she decodes messages that will help her uncover the fiendish activities of Agent X. In order to distinguish Agent A’s story from informational text, the story is typed in italics. If you get stumped, the answers appear at the back of the book. While Agent A’s story isn’t detailed, readers will have fun decoding messages and trying to solve the mystery.
The Usborne Book of Secret Codes explains each type of code in detail and gives examples that readers will be eager to decode. The book covers 15 types of secret codes including pigpen code, Morse Code, code wheel, and technobabble. Readers will also learn about the history of codes and how some code makers hid their messages. For example, “While working for the army, a military spy disguised himself as a butterfly collector. The patterns he drew of butterfly wings were, in fact, tiny plans of the enemy’s strategies.”
To add to the book’s fun, each page has large colorful illustrations that follow Agent A’s story. Plus, there are many examples of secret codes that readers can try to solve. The book includes simple directions to help readers create invisible writing, a code strip, a code wheel, and other spy codes. The large illustrations break up the text into short paragraphs that will appeal to even the most reluctant reader. The fun format will engage readers and give them many opportunities to interact with the text.
The Usborne Book of Secret Codes will teach readers about the fascinating ways that spies have hidden codes. The interactive book is perfect for readers who want to learn about spycraft. However, readers who want to learn more about the history of codes will want to add Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing by Paul B. Janeczko to their reading list. Also consider Anna Strong and the Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring by Enigma Alverti & Laura Terry; it comes with a spycraft kit that readers use to decipher the different codes in the book, and readers will have fun interacting with the story and seeing if they can solve the puzzles by the end of the book.
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