Ciphers, Codes and Courage

Calling all amateur cryptographers and junior codebreakers, I have an urgent message for you: - -

If you're the sort of kid, or kid at heart, who pulled out a pen and paper to crack that alphanumeric code, then I have a whole list of goodies to keep you and your friends busy after school:


Bomb, Steve Sheinkin's action-packed history of the race to build the atom bomb, is what really kicked off our codebreaking craze at my branch. A real life spy thriller full of primary sources, we had a hard time putting it down.

Top Secret is my go-to resource for keeping my codebreaking know-how in tip-top shape!  Crammed full of how-to information and historical background, Paul Janeczko's book introduces a wide variety of codes, ciphers and even DIY invisible inks. The ultimate codebreaker's handbook.

Must-Try Websites

  • Bletchley Park: Educational Resources: Once home to MI6's Government Code and Cypher School,  Bletchley Park famously housed the team of codebreakers who cracked the Enigma code and helped to end WWII on the European front.  Today, you can visit their website to try your hand at Substitution Ciphers and Bar Codes among many other codes and ciphers used in daily data transmission.  I've been known to fill out their practice worksheets on my break.
  • CryptoKids: Created by the National Security Agency, the children's extension of the site is packed with fun activities and games.   Budding cryptographers can try their hand at cracking codes and ciphers and even learn how to make their own cipher machines.

Hungry for More?

Sample a title or 10 from my Ciphers, Codes and Courage: WWII Edition booklist.

Now, you tell me: What are some of your favorite real-life spy thrillers?