September 1, 2019

Crack Caesar's Code!

Welcome guest blogger, author Jean Daigneau!

The idea of sharing secrets by writing in codes and ciphers might seem like an interesting past time. But did you know that writing in codes and ciphers actually goes back thousands of years to some of the earliest civilizations known to man?  And that wars have been won and lost based on the success of keeping codes and ciphers secret?

Preorder and purchase here!
As a puzzle fan and math geek, I have always been attracted to solving and creating puzzles. But little did I know when I first started researching cryptology—the study of codes and ciphers—how much my knowledge would expand. From Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, who used his artistic talents during the Boer Wars to send drawings back to the British of fort formations and weapons disguised as butterfly sketches, to a disgruntled German who turned his frustration against his brother and his country to sell secrets to the Allies during World War II that helped crack one of the most challenging cipher machines ever invented, my upcoming book CODE CRACKING FOR KIDS: Secret Communications Throughout History with 21 Codes and Ciphers, (to be published October 1, 2019, by Chicago Review Press) explores the history of cryptology, presents unsolved codes and ciphers from hundreds of years ago to more modern times, and offers a number of codes and ciphers for kids to enjoy.

Here’s a sample of a cipher used by Julius Caesar when he ruled the Roman Empire from 49 BCE to 44 BCE:
Can you use it to solve the message in red below? The coded letters are the ones in uppercase above. Write the plaintext (unciphered letters) above each capital letter to reveal the message.


Jean Daigneau has contributed to numerous children’s publications including Highlights and Fun for Kidz, and she writes a quarterly feature for Children’s Book Insider–Genre Spotlight. She has more than twenty years’ experience working with children in elementary school libraries and afterschool programs. Visit her website:

August 1, 2019

Experiment Like Nikola Tesla

Welcome August's blogger, author Amy O'Quinn!

I am excited to guest post on the Hands-On Books blog today. It’s a privilege to be here! My second book, NikolaTesla for Kids: His Life, Ideas, and Inventions, with 21 Activities (published by Chicago Review Press), was released in early July—and it was so cool to hold all that hard work in my hands at last. Better yet, I am thrilled to finally be able to share Nikola Tesla’s amazing life story with my readers!

Nikola Tesla was a man WAY ahead of his time, and many considered him to be somewhat of a mad scientist. And while it’s certainly true that he was extremely quirky and eccentric, he was a visionary in so many ways. Using the rotating magnetic field, he created the alternating current supply system we still use today. He also helped design the world’s first hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls, and he came up with innovative plans and ideas for other inventions, such as a remote-controlled boat, fluorescent tubes, neon lights, and the bladeless turbine. He is now acknowledged to have invented the radio ahead of Marconi, and he also experimented with wireless energy. In fact, many of the technological gadgets we take for granted today can be traced back to Nikola Tesla’s ideas and inventions! He truly wanted to make a difference in the world and help humankind.
After Tesla’s death, his belongings and papers were suspiciously confiscated by the U.S. government and sent back to his homeland in the Balkans. Because of the Cold War, western journalists had no access to any of his work—and the knowledge of his contributions to the fields of science and technology slowly faded away. While the names of Thomas Edison, Guglielmo Marconi, and other inventors of Tesla’s time have been remembered and honored, Nikola Tesla’s name was largely forgotten. Until recent years, he has been denied all the recognition he deserved. However, this is finally changing, and Nikola Tesla and his work are finally being applauded and celebrated. I sincerely hope that my book will help others discover, or at least learn a bit more, about one of the greatest inventors of all time.

Nikola was fascinated with magnetism from a very young age, and two of my favorite activities in the book center around this amazing force! Try one of the activities below for yourself.

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