CM . . . .
Volume VI Number 18 . . . . May 12, 2000
"Psst, Clancy."Lu and Clancy are dogs who exchange notes written in code to avoid the prying eyes of a pesky little sister. These codes are explained in an adjacent section called "How it works." Once the message is decoded, the story continues in a new location with the next set of instructions written in code. Readers are invited to decode the secret message. "Answers" to the coded messages are included on the back page, and the presentation of instructions for decoding is very clear with the reading level being about grades 2-3.
The secret messages are written in a diversity of methods such as reversing the letter in each word, selecting words out of a written text and identified by a code, placing letters on a grid and identifying them by coordinates, combining letters with a numerical code, using musical clefs as a basis for a code, filling in a crossword puzzle with the message, using ancient alphabets, and utilizing the telephone's numbers as a code. In total, there are 18 different types of codes.
The cartoon-like drawings of the dogs by Pat Cupples are very appealing and convey the various moods of curiosity, annoyance, or triumph of the dogs as the story progresses.
Presently, codes and cyphers are not as popular as they have been in our school, but the idea of passing secret notes to friends remains prevalent amongst 9 to10-year-olds. The illustrations and story appeal to younger children, but the actual code breaking requires a fair degree of concentration.
This book is recommended, especially for classroom teachers who could invite students to figure out the codes. This challenge will delight students who tend to be finished the regular assignments quickly.
Meredith MacKeen is the teacher-librarian at Glen Stewart School in Stratford, PEI.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.