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Can You Crack the Code?: A Fascinating History of Ciphers and Cryptography Hardcover – March 26, 2019

4.6 out of 5 stars 91 ratings

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 4–8-Schwartz provides a comprehensive and intriguing overview of cryptography, encryption, hacking, and cybersecurity. Beginning with simply coded messages and ciphers, the book follows the logical development of increasingly sophisticated codes throughout historical and contemporary use. Readers are given the opportunity to learn and practice real codes, as well as ways to explore how ciphers and encryption techniques are currently used by the military, secret service, businesses, and even sports teams. Math connections are included as the book demonstrates how computerized encryption utilizes prime numbers of mind-boggling size. Schwartz also explains common cybersecurity techniques such as second-factor authentication and biometrics. Illustrations and photographs clarify the concepts presented. The book concludes with a code-breaking challenge which directs readers to clues scattered throughout the chapters (not seen). This book will prove fascinating to young readers interested in history, technology, math, mysteries, and espionage. Its coverage of codes from the simple to the complex makes it accessible to upper elementary students while still being challenging and thought-provoking for middle school readers. The inclusion of stories about famous codes yet to be deciphered is especially engaging. Of particular value is the discussion about the ethics of information privacy. VERDICT Covers all the bases of an interesting and timely subject; a worthy addition to any collection, particularly where STEM topics are popular.-Kelly Jahng, South Park Elementary School, IL


"A broad and lucid survey of cryptographic strategies. These range fromsteganography and substitution ciphers to second factor authenticationand other recent trends in cybersecurity. She also provides plenty ofvariously coded examples for readers to decipher as practice, capped by a final challenge to go back and find the clues to a secret message thathave been distributed throughout. Her detailed description of how theGerman Enigma machine worked (and was hacked by the Bletchley Park group in World War II) is indeed "fascinating," as are the close analyses ofstill-unsolved messages such as the modern Kryptos inscription outside CIA headquarters." - Kirkus Reviews

"This perennially popular topic leads kids into tales of war and espionage, and to better ways of passing messages in class. Here Schwartz discusses the frequently traveled paths of the Caesar code,Masonic symbols, and the Enigma machine, with lots of opportunity to try one's hand at en- and decryption, and she also explains how encryption is vital to internet security and touches all forms of online and cellular communication. Necessary math concepts used to strengthen passwords are smoothly addressed (and some teachers might be interested in Schwartz's discussion of the practical use of prime numbers), along with such delectable tidbits as an illegal prime number that can unlock DVD encryption. Cartoon illustrations keep things cheery, as does Schwartz's overall optimism concerning cybersecurity and the white hat hacking. For middle-graders interested in the interplay of encryption and their personal security." -
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Bloomsbury Children's Books (March 26, 2019)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 128 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1681195143
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1681195148
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 8 - 12 years
  • Grade level ‏ : ‎ 3 - 7
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1.45 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 8.46 x 0.77 x 10.38 inches
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.6 out of 5 stars 91 ratings

About the author

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Ella writes fiction and nonfiction books for young readers. She is always asking questions and trying to learn new things. The books she writes are for kids who are just as curious as she is.

Ella is the author of CAN YOU CRACK THE CODE? (Bloomsbury, 2019), STOLEN SCIENCE (Bloomsbury, 2020), IS IT OKAY TO PEE IN THE OCEAN? (Bloomsbury, 2020) and MAKE THIS! (National Geographic Kids, 2019).

In addition to writing books, Ella is a cybersecurity warrior interfacing with the U.S. federal government on strategic technology initiatives. She has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering from Columbia University.

When she's not working, writing, or training to run a marathon, she volunteers on outreach initiatives to promote women in science and improve science literacy.

Ella lives on Long Island, New York with her husband and three sons. Her favorite color is pink, but there is rarely anything pink in her house.

Visit Ella on her website, Follow her on Twitter @ellaschwartz and Facebook

Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5
91 global ratings

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5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect for Aspiring Cryptographers
By Nova's List on December 9, 2020
“Can You Crack the Code?” by cybersecurity expert Ella Schwartz is perfect for your aspiring cryptographers and anyone who loves secret codes, ciphers, and puzzles. Filled with fascinating historical stories and explanations of how letters, numbers, and symbols can translate into understandable text. We learned about how ciphers were used to solve battlefield messages, stories of hidden treasures, and even modern day hacking. There are even sample codes to solve yourself and resources at the end.
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