Reviews for Top Secret : A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing


Booklist Reviews 2004 May #2
/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 4-7. Although readers familiar with Janeczko's poetry anthologies may be surprised to see his name on a book about cryptography, the connection between his two passions rapidly comes clear. After all, codes, like poems, allow one to conceal or unveil meaning in satisfyingly elegant ways. Janeczko gives aspiring codemakers and codebreakers everything they need for staging their own information exchanges--terminology; instructions for making simple devices (using index cards and an exacto knife to create Cardano Grilles, a message-concealment tool first used in 1556); concrete advice (assemble a "spy toolkit," using film-canister "vials" to store homemade invisible ink); and plenty of practice activities with answers at the back of the book. Fascinating historical anecdotes keep things lively, as do LaReau's stylish black-and-white illustrations, which show two spies, a male and a female, slinking through the pages as if to the furtive beat of the Pink Panther theme song. A certain category of puzzle-loving kids, especially those whose interest has been whetted by Blue Balliett's code-rich adventure Chasing Vermeer [BKL Ap 1 04], will take to this packed-to-the-gills volume like a spy to a cat suit. ((Reviewed May 15, 2004)) Copyright 2004 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2004 Fall
Janeczko provides an agreeable grab-bag of codes, ciphers, and recipes for invisible ink. The humorously illustrated book offers plenty of opportunities for practice in making--and breaking--codes, and solutions to the practice puzzles are provided at the back as is a short reading list. Ind. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2004 June #1
Known for his editing of poetry anthologies, Paul B. Janeczko studies another form of often-perplexing writing in Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers, and Secret Writing, illus. by Jenna LaReau. Janeczko discusses numerous codes that have been used throughout history, from Morse code and semaphore to examples of code usage, such as the "Beale cipher," a still-unsolved mystery regarding the location of treasure supposedly buried in the mid 1800s. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2004 May
Gr 4-8-A wonderful guide to secret writing. Janeczko relates how different codes came to be and why they were needed, and gives some historical examples. The book also contains information and exercises (with answers) on deciphering codes and provides children with the tools to make their own field kit. In addition to numerous codes and ciphers, invisible ink recipes and a number of concealment techniques are included. Humorous black-and-white sketches featuring two figures in sunglasses and trench coats are found throughout the book. The author's upbeat, positive tone is refreshing and his enthusiasm about his topic is contagious. He recommends that readers go to the library to learn more about the subject, and encourages them to use their imaginations and share the fun of secret writing with friends.-Cynde Suite, Bartow County Library System, Adairsville, GA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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VOYA Reviews 2004 August
This how-to guide and history of clandestine communication leads readers step-by-step through techniques that develop greater language awareness and teamwork, as well as an inexpensive code breaker's field kit. Using codes, ciphers, and secret language, Janeczko encourages readers to encode and decode with a partner. A short exercise follows each system-including Pig Latin, St. Cyr Slide, Greek Square Cipher, Null Code, Invisible Ink-to clarify the reader's comprehension. Answers are listed in the back of the book. Janeczko suggests a journal for record keeping, working out solutions, and code creation. Entertaining historical anecdotes and modern-day examples demonstrate the importance of even the oldest communication systems. The practical black-and-white illustrations clarify the text and set the mystery mood. As in his poetry books, Janeczko builds to sophisticated structures and concepts with small, clear, simple steps. Since completing all the activities requires two partners willing to construct somewhat complicated systems, middle school and junior high students already focused on the topic will probably be the most active participants. In a wider application, classroom teachers might want to use individual exercises for lessons in writing and following directions, and the book is a logical companion to middle school literature such as The Journal of William Thomas Emerson: A Revolutionary War Patriot (Scholastic, 1998).-Lucy Schall Index. Illus. Further Reading. 5Q 2P M J Copyright 2004 Voya Reviews.

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