A serviceable if too-often superficial update for solid but now-dated histories such as Gary Blackwood’s Mysterious Messages...

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CAN YOU CRACK THE CODE?

A FASCINATING HISTORY OF CIPHERS AND CRYPTOGRAPHY

Hands-on history for budding spies, hackers, or anyone with a secret message to send.

Though she starts off with a face-plant—a vague claim, with a disappointingly stereotypical illustration, that “the ancient Chinese” had couriers swallow secret messages written on silk—Schwartz goes on to offer a broad and lucid survey of cryptographic strategies. These range from steganography and substitution ciphers to second factor authentication and other recent trends in cybersecurity. She also provides plenty of variously coded examples for readers to decipher as practice, capped by a final challenge to go back and find the clues to a secret message that have been distributed throughout. Her detailed description of how the German Enigma machine worked (and was hacked by the Bletchley Park group in World War II) is indeed “fascinating,” as are the close analyses of still-unsolved messages such as the modern Kryptos inscription outside CIA headquarters. Somewhat less fascinating are the closing chapters, in which she does explain how prime numbers figure in securing internet communications but neglects to mention the possibilities of quantum cryptography and leaves a debatable impression that cyber defenses have been generally successful in staying ahead of “black hat” hackers. Williams adds a diverse group of spot-art figures to go with the array of tables, diagrams, and occasional photos.

A serviceable if too-often superficial update for solid but now-dated histories such as Gary Blackwood’s Mysterious Messages (2009). (index, source list) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68119-514-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for...

TWO MEN AND A CAR

FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, AL CAPONE, AND A CADILLAC V-8

A custom-built, bulletproof limo links two historical figures who were pre-eminent in more or less different spheres.

Garland admits that a claim that FDR was driven to Congress to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech in a car that once belonged to Capone rests on shaky evidence. He nonetheless uses the anecdote as a launchpad for twin portraits of contemporaries who occupy unique niches in this country’s history but had little in common. Both were smart, ambitious New Yorkers and were young when their fathers died, but they definitely “headed in opposite directions.” As he fills his biographical sketches with standard-issue facts and has disappointingly little to say about the car itself (which was commissioned by Capone in 1928 and still survives), this outing seems largely intended to be a vehicle for the dark, heavy illustrations. These are done in muted hues with densely scratched surfaces and angled so that the two men, the period backgrounds against which they are posed, and the car have monumental looks. It’s a reach to bill this, as the author does, a “story about America,” but it does at least offer a study in contrasts featuring two of America’s most renowned citizens. Most of the human figures are white in the art, but some group scenes include a few with darker skin.

The car gets shortchanged, but comparing the divergent career paths of its (putative) two riders may give readers food for thought. (timeline, bibliography) (Picture book/biography. 10-12)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-88448-620-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A coherent if unexceptional overview of the subject given a solid boost by the visuals.

EXPLORING SPACE

FROM GALILEO TO THE MARS ROVER AND BEYOND

Finely detailed cutaway views of spacecraft and satellites launch a broad account of space exploration’s past, present, and near future.

Jenkins begins with the journey of Voyager I, currently the “most distant man-made object ever,” then goes back to recap the history of astronomy, the space race, and the space-shuttle program. He goes on to survey major interplanetary probes and the proliferating swarm of near-Earth satellites, then closes with reflections on our current revived interest in visiting Mars and a brief mention of a proposed “space elevator.” This is all familiar territory, at least to well-read young skywatchers and would-be astronauts, and despite occasional wry observations (“For longer stays [in space], things to consider include staying fit and healthy, keeping clean, and not going insane”) it reads more like a digest than a vivid, ongoing story. Biesty’s eye for exact, precise detail is well in evidence in the illustrations, though, and if one spread of generic residents of the International Space Station is the only place his human figures aren’t all white and male, at least he offers riveting depictions of space gear and craft with every last scientific instrument and structural element visible and labeled.

A coherent if unexceptional overview of the subject given a solid boost by the visuals. (index, timeline, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8931-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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