________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 18 . . . . May 12, 2000

cover Lu & Clancy's Secret Codes.

Adrienne Mason. Illustrated by Pat Cupples.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 1999.
40 pp., pbk., $5.95.
ISBN 1-55074-553-0.

Subject Headings:
Cryptography-Juvenile fiction.
Ciphers-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 3-5 / Ages 8-10.
Review by Meredith MacKeen.

*** /4


"Psst, Clancy."

Clancy stopped dead in his tracks. "That's weird - I thought I heard that bush call my name."

"You did," whispered the bush. "It's me - Lu."

Clancy peered into the bush and sure enough, there was his best friend.

"I'm avoiding my pesky little sister," Lu explained. She looked around nervously, then whipped out a pink balloon and handed it to Clancy. Before Clancy could say a word, Lu was gone.

Clancy knew just what to do - he and Lu had been studying secret codes for weeks. He took the Two Dogs Inc. pin off his collar and popped the balloon. Inside was this piece of paper.

image 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.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364