Top Secret: Spies, Codes, Capers, Gadgets, and Classified Cases Revealed

National Geographic. Apr. 2021. 192p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781426339127.
Gr 4-8–This winning title of tantalizing tidbits provides a hidden vault’s worth of information on all things secretive and shadowy. From real-life tools of spycraft like the lipstick pistol to domains of forbidden knowledge like the legendary Area 51, this book offers multiple hooks from STEM to history and everything in between. Authors Boyer and Zimbler dive into the book’s dozens of subjects with aplomb, utilizing clever wordplay and a gripping journalistic voice to ensure that every page crackles with fascination. The book is presented as a confidential file that has clandestinely fallen into the hands of the young reader/spy-in-training. The authors follow this theme through by capping each of the eight chapters with DIY breakout activities for readers to apply their knowledge from the preceding text. Chapter 7, “Secret Codes,” for instance, ends with a set of three recipes for kids to create their own invisible ink. The book employs a visually stimulating palette of graphics, leading the eye across sidebars, captions, and infographics in an organic fashion that promotes close and enthusiastic reading. The holistic approach to the broad subject—secret information—allows for the usual suspects like ninja and cryptids to appear alongside some truly fun and eye-opening material, from the secret (and dirty) life of housecats to the superstitious rituals of pro athletes.
VERDICT A visually stunning book bursting with riddles, intrigue, and history, this must-have nonfiction title is sure to serve as a rabbit hole for readers both reluctant and voracious into a bevy of captivating topics.

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