1963, Bethlehem Books, 168 pages, softcover
Alvin’s Secret Code is another Bethlehem Books winner. I confess; I polished it off in one day (It helps if you are stuck in an airport for a 2 ½ hour layover without any interruptions). My 8-year-old, Kateri, also polished it off in record time. She was so completely absorbed in it that she read it in two afternoons.In this fun, mystery story, Alvin, his best friend Shoie, and Alvin’s younger sister combine their talents to unlock a secret message to buried treasure.
There are some great moral lessons in this story, but you don’t have to tell your kids that. After Alvin and Shoie accidentally find an encoded message, they are convinced that a lonely old man is a Russian spy passing on military secrets. They soon find out that overactive imaginations can lead to false assumptions.
In the process of decoding their mysterious message, they meet a World War II veteran who shares with them his knowledge of codes and ciphers. In our modern culture that segregates age groups, it is great to see these age barriers broken and different generations spending time together and communicating with each other respectfully.
For me the most touching moment occurs when Alvin generously offers to help someone in desperate need, but I can’t give away all the details. For my daughter, her favorite part of the story is when Alvin gives his sister a medal, allowing her to become Secret Agent Z 13 ½. Even though Alvin refers to his sister Daphne as “the pest” throughout the story, he allows her to tag along and is never nasty to her. In fact, he does appreciate her contributions to solving the mystery and in the end rewards her. She idolizes Alvin as her older brother and that is why she wants to tag along.
With a mysterious stranger in town, a damsel in distress, and the three “secret agents” looking for a mystery to solve, Alvin’s Secret Code is the perfect recipe for a fun adventure. After reading this book, don’t be surprised if your children start writing messages in ciphers and codes. There is an appendix in the back of the book with an explanation of ciphers and codes along with samples.
Donated by Bethlehem Books
Reviewed by Elizabeth Yank
Thanks to the generosity of Bethlehem Books, we have two copies of this book to give away AND we'll be giving more of their books away tomorrow! If you'd like to be entered in this drawing, please leave a comment before tomorrow (January 29th) at 10 a.m. (Pacific time) and check back soon afterwards to see if you've won!