Can You Crack the Code?


In “Can You Crack the Code? by Ella Schwarts and illustrated by Lily Williams; the reader learns the elaborate history of coding, ciphers and cryptography. Throughout the book, there are many interactive opportunities such as using the information and history in a chapter and using it to solve the code and crack the cipher as well as using different types of encoders and decoders to create your own secret message! There are also three small characters that appear several times throughout the chapters; Alice and Bob who send each other encoded letters and Eve, their classmate that is trying to crack the code and reveal their hidden messages.

Though at first it may seem as if it were a children’s book, it opens the door to the history of coding, how it was used for secret communication during war and combat, and the evolution of coding technology.

Many of the chapters in this book contain loads of information on how coding was used during combat. During WWII, a machine called Enigma was made to help the Germans communicate without the enemy knowing about their plans. An Enigma machine look like an ordinary typewriter from the outside, but the technology hidden under a simple disguise should not be underestimated. With codebooks, the receiver on the other end was able to unveil the code and create their own messages to send back, offering information such as weather reports to the frontlines. The Enigma code was solved by Bletchley Park; a group of mathematicians, cryptographers, chess players, crossword puzzle fans and many others, by developing the Bombe machine.

Though it was not what I expected at first, after reading, I felt like I had learned a lot more than I had thought I would. When there were interactive parts of the book, I was expecting more “solve-it-yourself” for the entirety of the book rather than learning about the history, how to use the method then solve it yourself. Throughout the book there was only a scarce amount of interactiveness and more of a read and learn about the method of cipher. The book also provided real life examples were ciphers were used such as a 600 year old coded manuscript, the Kryptos code and modern day use by hackers, both good and bad.