Is your son an amateur sleuth? Is your daughter adept at cracking codes?
National Geographic Kids has published a book by Crispin Boyer and Suzanne Zimbler called “Top Secret: Spies, Codes, Capers, Gadgets & Classified Cases Revealed.”
“Young readers like one thing more than anything else: knowing something their parents don’t,” Boyer told WTOP. “The book is there to fire up their imagination, capture their attention, get them involved. The next thing you know, they’re halfway through the book.”
Chapter 1 is called “Secret Agencies,” including an interview with a former CIA agent.
“We get into what a spy is, the history of the job, different spy terminology: agent, double agent, triple agent, assets, intelligence,” Boyer said. “This chapter talks about the Secret Service; the president’s special car, ‘The Beast,’ that’s bulletproof and can drop oil slicks.”
Chapter 2 is called “Secret History,” digging into hidden historical facts.
“They’re gonna learn about various conspiracy theories,” Boyer said. “There’s the Roswell incident. … We go even farther back to the Roman Colosseum’s hidden chambers. … We talk about secret societies like the Illuminati. We break out the Rosetta Stone to show how Egyptian hieroglyphics were top secret until they found a stone to translate it into Greek.”
Chapter 3 is called “Secret Identities,” highlighting some cool covert individuals.
“We start with the original spies: ninjas in Japan,” Boyer said. “There’s a woman named Virginia Hall in World War II, an American who lost half her leg. … She decided to become a spy and infiltrated behind enemy lines in Nazi Germany dressed like a milk maid.”
Chapter 4 is called “Secret Plans,” featuring crazy military missions and prison breaks.
“In World War II, one of the most successful spies was a dead body the British dumped overboard, dressed like military brass, padded with phony documents about a fake landing in occupied France to fool the Germans into thinking that the Allies were going to land in one part of France when actually they were going to land in another,” Boyer said.
Chapter 5 is called “Secret Gadgets,” highlighting technology like James Bond.
“This stuff looks like it’s right out of Q’s lab,” Boyer said. “We have an umbrellas that shoots darts. We have lipstick that’s actually a pistol. … This little device you can stick into an envelope, roll up the letter, pull it out, read it, put it back in and seal it back up. … One of my favorite gadgets is a fake piece of dog poop that spies used to pass messages.”
Chapter 6 is called “Secret Places,” exploring top-secret geographical sites.
“We give an aerial view of Area 51,” Boyer said. “People think they’ve hidden crashed UFOs. … On Mount Rushmore, there’s a secret room behind Lincoln’s head. Originally, it was going to be used to house priceless government documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, then realized it’s a bad place to hide in a drafty cave.”
Chapter 7 is called “Secret Codes,” so get your Orphan Annie Decoder ring ready.
“We actually provide five different codes that readers can try,” Boyer said. “It’s just about substituting letters. Then they can pass these codes to their friends to decode. … If you see your kids passing around gibberish letters, you might want to borrow the book.”
Chapter 8 is called “Secrets All Around You,” revealing things hiding in plain sight.
“They don’t have to go looking through government archives or skulking around for hidden rooms, they can find secrets everywhere,” Boyer said. “The tricks they use to photograph foods for TV commercials — in a bowl of cereal, the milk might actually be glue … or a juicy steak, all the grill marks are actually drawn on with a magic marker.”
Just don’t let the book fall into the wrong hands.