Ransom Publishing, UK, 2016
During summer vacation Sara, Daniel, and Jared came up with an awesome secret code. They think it’s the perfect thing to keep parental units, teachers, and annoying little sisters in the dark. The first real test of the new code comes on the first day of school when a harmless message gets changed in transit and puts Sara in some serious hot water at school. Despite that, they don’t give up on the code. Instead the brother, sister, and cousin team get busy finding ways to protect their code from errors that others could introduce. And it’s a good thing they do, because when the local bank is robbed in the middle of Sara and Daniel’s field trip, their code may be the only thing that can get them out of a difficult and dangerous situation.
Pamela Cosman has written a ripping adventure starring a group of ordinary middle school kids. The characters are appealing and real. The stakes are high. And the kids save the day. It’s an engaging story with STEM concepts worked in. The secret code involved is a binary code and useful for learning how computers pass information. The Secret Code Menace takes readers along for a fun ride while clearly showing how engineers solve problems with corrupted information in DVDs, cell phones, and other types of communication so that users may not even notice a problem.
A section at the end of the book gives even more information for kids who are interested in learning about error correction coding in more detail. It also offers solutions to the unsolved puzzles in the story.
Pamela Cosman is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at University of California, San Diego. In The Secret Code Menace she uses her considerable knowledge and teaching skills to make engineering concepts clear and fun for upper elementary and middle school readers.
This is the start of a great new series for kids. It will appeal to readers who simply want a good story and also to kids who are fascinated by secret codes and STEM concepts. This is a must-add for classrooms, school libraries, and fun summer reading.