A quick skim of the subject—readable, but unsystematic and not well served by either the art or the dusty closing...

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GIFTS FROM THE GODS

Countering the notion that our language just sprang into existence from nowhere, a respected storyteller offers quick notes on the Classical backgrounds behind several dozen words or expressions in common use.

Arranging her 17 main choices alphabetically from “Achilles Heel” to “Victory,” Lunge-Larsen supplies for each a use-quote, retells or paraphrases a Greek or Roman myth that explains the term’s usage then closes with quick references to several related gods or other figures whose names are still embedded in English. While “Pandora’s Box” and some other entries feature fully developed tales, others do not. The story of Achilles (whose role and death in the Trojan War are encompassed in one sentence about how, after the “Battle of Troy [sic] broke out … one fateful arrow pierced his heel”) and others are sketchy at best. Adding occasional dialogue balloons graphic-novelist, Hinds presents expertly drawn but similarly sketchy watercolor scenes of fully-clothed or discreetly posed mortals and immortals on nearly every page. While pulling modern use-quotes from current literature for kids has the potential to spice up the presentation, some works are relatively obscure (River Boy, by Tim Bowler) or above the natural audience for this text (The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney).

A quick skim of the subject—readable, but unsystematic and not well served by either the art or the dusty closing bibliography. (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-547-15229-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Aug. 24, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A reasonably comprehensive handbook, though it’s confined to classical low- to no-tech methods.

THE SECRET AGENT TRAINING MANUAL

HOW TO MAKE AND BREAK TOP SECRET MESSAGES: A COMPANION TO THE SECRET AGENTS JACK AND MAX STALWART SERIES

Simple directions for using codes, ciphers, and steganography to send secret messages to friends or fellow spies.

After opening with an overview of historical cryptography from the “Caesar cipher” and an ancient Chinese script called Nushu (used exclusively by women) to the Enigma machine and other World War II–era coding devices, Hunt proceeds to describe over two dozen ways to hide or disguise messages. Along with substitution codes, letter and number grids, anagrams, a tic-tac-toe cipher, a Vigenère table, and like techniques, she provides recipes for invisible ink, instructions for creating paper decoder bracelets or rings, and templates to copy for an Alberti cipher wheel. Most of the illustrations are charts or simple line drawings, with a sprinkling of human figures (all seem to be white). The author adds frequent practice pages with blank lines and short secret messages to decode, and she closes with a series of longer puzzles (answer key included) in a final “Cryptographic Challenge.” But young would-be coders hoping to find more than passing nods to computer programs or cellphone tools—or even that much about modern advances in cryptography—will be disappointed.

A reasonably comprehensive handbook, though it’s confined to classical low- to no-tech methods. (sources) (Nonfiction. 10-12)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-60286-339-2

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Weinstein Books

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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