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Today's featured picture book biography is Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars by Laurie Wallmark and illustrated by Brooke Smart.

About the Book

Elizebeth Friedman was brilliant at cracking codes, but her story has been unknown for years because her work was classified. When her papers were declassified in 2015, the general public learned that during the years around World Wars I and II she uncovered spy rings, took down smugglers, and created the first cryptology unit for the CIA (at the time called the OSS).

How did Elizebeth Friedman become a code breaker? It started with a gift for languages.

After she finished college, an eccentric, wealthy man hired her to look for hidden passages in Shakespeare's writing, ones that would give clues to who the true author was. From there, her interest in codes blossomed.

In addition to the fascinating story of Elizebeth Friedman, the book has enough back matter to satisfy the curiosity of future cryptographers. It includes information about "Codes and Ciphers", a "Crack the Code!" activity, an entire page of information about "Cryptography Today," a "Timeline", "Selected Bibliography", and historical "Notes." There are so many pages that it flows out into the end papers.

Top Secret:  Do you see those ribbons of letters on the cover? Laurie Wallmark reveals (in an interview) that those are messages written in code! The coded ribbons can also be found in some of the illustrations. Can you figure out what they say? The back matter may help.

Discussion

Regular blog readers may be wondering how does cryptology relate to STEM? Actually it can be considered a form of applied mathematics. Code breakers look for patterns, a skill that is also useful in science (NGSS Crosscutting Concept). According to the book, when Elizebeth was assembling people for her code-breaking unit:

"She couldn't find enough people trained in cryptology, so she hired mathematicians, physicists and chemists. She knew scientists could think analytically, a skill needed for code breaking."

All in all, Code Breaker, Spy Hunter is a perfect choice for future spies, budding STEM enthusiasts, and up-and-coming historians alike. Examine a copy today!

Related Activity Suggestions:

  1. Check out the Code Breaker, Spy Hunter book page, where you'll find a trailer, cool activity sheets, and more.
  2. Visit Wrapped in Foil blog for The Clothesline Code picture book about two ingenious Civil War spies who devised a code using the pattern of clothes drying on a clothesline (also with a flag code activity suggestion).
  3. To celebrate Women's History Month, find more biographies of Women in STEM and Women Who Count at Science Books for Kids.

About the Creators:

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark has written picture-book biographies of women in STEM fields ranging from computer science to mathematics, astronomy to code breaking. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Cook Prize Honor, and Parents’; Choice Gold Medal. She is a former software engineer and computer science professor. She lives in Ringoes, New Jersey. You can find her website at lauriewallmark.com.
On Twitter: @lauriewallmark
Facebook: @lauriewallmarkauthor
Instagram: @lauriewallmark

Brooke Smart loves telling stories through her illustrations, especially stories about brave women from history. She has always loved to read, and growing up she could be found nightly falling asleep with a book on her chest. Illustrating books as a professional artist is a lifelong dream come true. She is living the busy, tired, happy, wonderful dream in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, their three kids, and their naughty cat named Sunshine. Learn more about her at brooke-smart.com.
Instagram: @bookesmartillustration

 

Reading age : 7 - 11 years
Publisher : Harry N Abrams Inc; Illustrated edition (March 2, 2021)
ISBN-10 : 1419739638
ISBN-13 : 978-1419739637

Disclosure: This book was provided by Blue Slip Media for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

For STEM Friday, we're highlighting the new board book Brilliant Baby Does Math* by Laura Gehl and illustrated by Jean Claude, part of a series at little bee books.

Using a compelling rhyme, Laura Gehl introduces young children to math concepts and vocabulary found in everyday activities.

Math is comparing what's hotter or colder, longer or shorter...younger or older

Jean Claude's brightly-colored illustrations are not only cute, but also contain much to explore. For example, ask young readers to point out the shapes they find in each scene. Some of the shapes are subtle, such as hidden in the pattern of a rug. Others are called out in the text.

Last year, I taught a STEM story time for preschoolers. I wish I had this book for the math section. The bouncy rhythm is engaging and it would have generated a lot of discussion.

Overall, Brilliant Baby Does Math isn't about how to do math, but instead is an age-appropriate introduction to what math does. Investigate a copy today!

*****

Preschooler Math Activity Suggestions:

For preschoolers, math concepts can be introduced informally during playtime. For example, add a set of durable measuring spoons and cups to your sand toy collections.

Or gather toys, such as balls, small cars, or other items to sort (unlike the photograph below, make sure they aren't all equal in number.)

Ask the child to sort the items by whatever criteria is age appropriate. For example, you might mix cars and balls, and say, "Which is a car?" Or ask, "Which cars are red?"

Once the items are sorted, expand by asking,  "Which pile has 'less' items and which has 'more'?"

If the numbers similar, say one pile has six items and the other has seven items, the child might struggle figuring it out. To help, show them how to pair items so they can see the difference visually. For example, using black @ symbols and green @ symbols:

@@@@@@
@@@@@@@

"Which line is longer?"

Don't worry if they don't catch on right away. Move onto another activity and return another day.

Over time, continue to find ways to talk about and explore the math concepts introduced in Brilliant Baby Does Math. Let me know if you'd like more suggestions.

Related:

(*Amazon Affiliate Link)

Reading age : 2 - 5 years
Publisher : little bee books (February 2, 2021)
ISBN-10 : 1499811195
ISBN-13 : 978-1499811193

Disclosure: This book was provided electronically for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

1

Need a math book to help keep skills sharp for the summer? Look no further than Cool Math: 50 Fantastic Facts for Kids of All Ages by Tracie Young and Katie Hewett.

Organized as a series of two-page spreads, this small book packs in a king-sized number of tips, games, cool facts, and tricks that will interest even the most math adverse. Examples range from tips for quick multiplication to how to make a magic square. Tucked in are practical refreshers, like how to calculate area and volume.

Although designed for middle school, the title is correct; it could be fun for adults as well. You could read it cover to cover, but Cool Math is so easy to browse. Glance through the table of contents or thumb through the book. Either way, something will catch your attention and before long you'll grab a pencil to figure out how it works. Plus, the practical tips will make you want to return to it again and again.

Cool Math is a fun, painless way to hone those math skills.  Explore a copy today!

Related:

1. Try Sudoku puzzles.

Sudoku is an extremely popular game and it is easy to find instructions and free puzzles online. The puzzles can teach number and pattern recognition in preschoolers, as well as logic, spatial awareness, and problem solving to older children.

Here's one example of an instructional video:

 

2. Look for other posts and activities in our math category.

3. Check out our growing list of math books for children at Science Books for Kids.

 

Age Range: 12 - 16 years
Publisher: Pavilion Children's (March 3, 2020)
ISBN-10: 1843654482
ISBN-13: 978-1843654483

 

Disclosure: This book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. Also, I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

 


Looking for more children’s nonfiction books? Try the Nonfiction Monday blog.