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Comment: The item shows wear from consistent use, but it remains in good condition and works perfectly. All pages and cover are intact (including the dust cover, if applicable). Spine may show signs of wear. Pages may include limited notes and highlighting. May include "From the library of" labels.
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Top Secret: A Handbook of Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing Paperback – April 11, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 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 © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*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. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; Reprint edition (April 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763629723
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763629724
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. Jacobsen on July 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is well written and well illustrated. I think it would work best for kids from about 12 to 14. It starts with basic codes, and moves to more complicated ones, but always makes how they function quite clear. I list the ages to give a sensibility of the book; it is not "dumbed down". The book could be used by younger kids with some adult help, or for kids who are really interested. It would also be a good starting point for high school students.

It tries hard to be as interactive as possible, always posing questions. It is a "practical" book, focusing on codes that students can use, as opposed to trying to be say a history book, that would delve deeply into say the WW II Enigma code. From the rating, you can tell I enjoyed it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although this book seems to be recommended for middle schoolers, I bought it for my just-turned 6-year-old son as a birthday gift. We had initially checked it out from our library and he absolutely loved it. Expect to find page upon page of engaging codes and ciphers. Parents are forewarned! Arm yourself with the patience to solve the numerous scribbled codes your kids are going to bring you. Fabulous book. I'm so glad we got our own copy. Another book I'd recommend is Martin Gardner's Codes, Ciphers and Secret Writing.
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Format: Hardcover
I bought this book for my 11-year-old brother for his birthday. The youngest of five, he's an understandably secretive kid; so I thought he'd enjoy this sneaky book. Of course, I had to read it first, because I'm one of those dastardly people who reads books before giving them to people. It's a great book; it gives a quick overview of the history of cyphers, but keeps it upbeat and snappy. It includes a dozen or more codes to learn and use, and encourages kids to be imaginative and modify them or create their own. A great, hands-on read. It made me wish I was a kid again with lots of time on my hands so I could write secret messages to my friends.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Written mainly for younger readers ( say from 8-18), but even older people can get some interesting ideas from this. I'm not seriously into codes and ciphers, but if anyone is, this would be too basic for them. OK for an introduction.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
OK;...YEAH;COOL COVER! REGARDLESS OF THAT; THIS IS HONESTLY AN AWESOME PLACE TO START YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF CODES AND ETC.....VERY FUN BOOK;PERHAPS EVEN WRITTEN FOR THE YOUNGER STUDENT,..IT IS SUPER-PACKED WITH KNOWLEDGE RARELY STUDIED NOW-A-DAYS!!! CARTOONS;FUNNY SIDE NOTES;"HOME-WORK" AND SOMETHING SO COMPLEX;EXPLAINED IN A FUN AND EASY MANNER!!!---EVEN GOES IN-DEPTH WITH "INVISABLE INK" AND HOW OUR COUNTRY'S LEADERS AND FOUNDERS USED SECRET CODES AND SPYS TO WIN!!! NEATO!BUY THIS FOR THAT "SECRET SPY" IN YOUR FAMILY;OR IS THAT YOU!?!?
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A Kid's Review on October 21, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Wonderful! I like the way this book tells you (in understandable English) how secret codes were invented and how to write with them. The codes go through commonly heard codes and codes you have probably never heard of and can probably not find. No problems withe the book and the sneaky cover and title make kids like me want to read it!
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I got this book to help me teach a spy class for elementary and middle school aged students. It's a winner. I recommended it to the parents. Great background and information, with lots of history and science. The projects are fun and will provide many hours of exploration. Top notch!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book covers the basics of several types of ciphers as well as the basics of steganography. It's a great introduction at the middle school level. Younger kids could learn plenty from this but may need someone adept at explaining things from the material in the book.
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