Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to codes, ciphers and puzzles. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about codes, ciphers and puzzles.
Our list includes board books, picture books, and chapter books. Board books are best for babies and toddlers from ages newborn to 2 or 3. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.
When it comes to children’s stories about codes, ciphers and puzzles, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like The Clue in the Crossword Cipher to popular sellers like The 39 Clues.
We hope this list of kids books about codes, ciphers and puzzles can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book!
During World War II U.S. forces had to keep battle plans and other top secret information out of the enemy’s hands. Coded messages were often used, but secret codes could be broken. To solve this problem, the U.S. military turned to an unexpected source to create an unbreakable code. The Navajo people spoke a complex language that few outsiders knew how to speak. Several Navajo soldiers were recruited to develop a code based on the Navajo language. The result was a complex code that could not be solved by the enemy. Learn all about the brave Navajo Code Talkers and how their unbreakable code helped defeat the enemy and win the war.
What appear to be four separate stories, one installment of each appearing on each spread of the book, turn out to intermingle and, in time, become one story. Always Macaulay is playing with our perceptions and making allusions and illusions. A robber hides out in a herd of cattle who, in turn, disrupt the passage of a train. At the train station, passengers at first are absorbed in the newspapers they are reading, but as the wait lengthens, they start playing with the newspapers and with each other. A boy, a passenger on the train, witnesses some of the events, but not all of them. Parents, previously staid and distant, have apparently changed, at least temporarily, because of their time spent waiting for the train that day. The book can be frustratingly confusing or, in the proper hands and minds, a challenge and a source of fascination.
Back in the 1800s, information traveled slowly. Who would dream of instant messages? Samuel Morse, that’s who! Who traveled to France, where the famous telegraph towers relayed 10,000 possible codes for messages depending on the signal arm positions—only if the weather was clear? Who imagined a system that would use electric pulses to instantly carry coded messages between two machines, rain or shine? Long before the first telephone, who changed communication forever? Samuel Morse, that’s who!
This dynamic and subtsantive biography celebrates an early technology pioneer. Perfect for fans of Gene Barretta’s popular inventor series.
Twelve-year-old Kallie despises nonsense. She believes there’s a rational explanation for everything, despite the good-natured prodding of her Grandpa Jess, who takes her to frivolous wastes of time like their town’s local Festival of Fools. There, Kallie meets a faceless man (must be some kind of mask) who gives her a strange wooden puzzle box (must be some kind of gimmick). Intrigued despite herself, Kallie sets to work on unlocking its secrets and…lets something out. From here Kallie’s life begins to entangle with another world, a world where Liah, a young bone carver, journeys with her master to sell wares to a wicked Queen. The sights, sounds, smells, and spells of Liah’s world are beginning to leak into Kallie’s, and if Kallie can’t decipher the meaning of her own story, “the end” might be far from happy.
Knock, Knock, Who Lives Here? - PEEKABOO!
Legacy of Secrets - Disneyland, Opening Day, 1955. When five present-day teenagers known as the Kingdom Keepers find themselves thrown into a past that would make anyone envious, things don’t exactly work out the way they’d hoped. Finn, Charlene, Maybeck, Willa, and Philby open a door into a place and a time when the legend of the Disney parks is just starting. They are there, in 1955, to retrieve Walt Disney’s infamous pen that once saved the parks as we know them. But like all things Disney, nothing is as it seems.The early days of the Tower of Terror, the origin of the Overtakers (Disney villains), and the real power of magic unfold in an unexpected series of events that propel both the Keepers and Disney itself into a darkness no one saw coming. Along the way, the Keepers visit Walt Disney’s hilltop home, Disneyland’s opening day and reception, and find themselves separated from friends sixty years away. The three Fairlies, young women in Disney’s School of Imagineering, girls with astonishing powers of their own, have unmasked a long-buried secret that threatens the lives of their friends as well as everything Walt Disney worked for. <br>
The Mummy's Curse - Egyptian secrets take center stage in this interactive mystery where boys and girls can solve codes and puzzles right along with the multicultural cast of characters. Cody, Quinn, Luke, and M.E. love playing around with codes. In fact, they love codes so much they have their own club, with a secret hideout and passwords that change every day. After learning about steganography, the study of concealed writing, the Code Busters discover that artists have been hiding secret messages in their artwork for centuries. A clue hunt on a class trip to the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum leads the Code Busters to an artifact that doesn't seem to quite fit with the rest of the collection. Could it be a forgery? The Code Busters' code-cracking skills and new knowledge of hieroglyphic messages will help them get to the bottom of this mystery, but they better think fast before the criminal tries to frame them!
The Alcatraz Escape - Sleuthing duo Emily and James engage in a literary escape-room challenge on Alcatraz Island, but soon find that an invisible enemy is trying to sabotage the team at any cost.
National Book Award finalist Laura Ruby returns with the middle chapter in her epic alternate-history adventure—a journey that will test Tess, Theo, and Jaime and change their lives forever. It was only a few weeks ago that the Biedermann twins, Tess and Theo, along with their friend Jaime Cruz, followed the secrets of the Morningstarrs’ cipher further than anyone had in its century-and a-half history—and destroyed their beloved home in the process. But the Old York Cipher still isn’t solved. The demolition of 354 W. 73rd Street only revealed the next clue in the greatest mystery of the modern world, and if Tess, Theo, and Jaime want to discover what lies at the end of the puzzle laid into the buildings of New York by its brilliant, enigmatic architects, they will need to press on. But doing so could prove even more dangerous than they know. It is clear that the Morningstarr twins marshaled all the strange technology they had spent their lives creating in the construction of the Cipher, and that technology has its own plans for those who pursue it. It’s also clear that Tess, Theo, and Jaime are not the only ones on the trail of the treasure. As enemies both known and unknown close in on them from all sides and the very foundations of the city seem to crumble around them, they will have to ask themselves how far they will go to change the unchangeable—and whether the price of knowing the secrets of the Morningstarrs is one they are willing to pay.
Could books hidden through the Book Scavenger game be linked to an arsonist’s web of destruction? Find out in the New York Times-bestselling second book in the action packed Book Scavenger series by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman.
Could books hidden through Book Scavenger be linked to an arsonist’s web of destruction? Find out in Book 2 of Jennifer Bertman’s Book Scavenger series. Mr. Quisling is definitely up to something mysterious, and Emily and James are on high alert. First, there’s the coded note he drops at a book event. Then they uncover a trail of encrypted messages in Mark Twain-penned books hidden through Book Scavenger. What’s most suspicious is that each hidden book triggers a fire. As the sleuthing friends dig deeper, they discover Mr. Quisling has been hunting a legendary historical puzzle: the Unbreakable Code. This new mystery is irresistible, but Emily and James can’t ignore the signs that Mr. Quisling might be the arsonist. The clock is ticking as the fires multiply, and Emily and James race to crack the code of a lifetime. A Christy Ottaviano Book
As a young Navajo boy, Chester Nez had to leave the reservation and attend boarding school, where he was taught that his native language and culture were useless. But Chester refused to give up his heritage. Years later, during World War II, Chester—and other Navajo men like him—was recruited by the US Marines to use the Navajo language to create an unbreakable military code. Suddenly the language he had been told to forget was needed to fight a war. This powerful picture book biography contains backmatter including a timeline and a portion of the Navajo code, and also depicts the life of an original Navajo code talker while capturing the importance of heritage.
The Secret of the Puzzle Box -
The Code Busters are excited for their class field trip to Angel Island, known as the Ellis Island of the West. One of Mika's ancestors passed through the island's immigration station in the early twentieth century, and Mika thinks he may have left behind some secret messages . . . plus a very special box. But as the Code Busters search for hints from the past, they get caught up in an even bigger secret.
Can you crack the code? Test your brain with the Code Busters to see if you have the right stuff to be an ace detective. Answers are in the back, in case you get stuck.
Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas -
The Goonies meets Indiana Jones and James Patterson's Treasure Hunters in this funny, action-filled adventure series!
The Haunted Lighthouse -
An infamous prison may hold a secret only the Code Busters can uncover.
Cody, Quinn, Luke, and M.E. may all have different talents, but they share one thing in common: they love playing around with codes. In fact, they love codes so much, they have their own club, with a secret hideout and passwords that change every day. When Cody and her friends get a mysterious e-mail hinting at a treasure on Alcatraz Island, they can't wait to get started on their clue hunt. Luckily, a class trip to the prison is the perfect cover to start their search. During the tour, the club members learn that a jewel thief kept at Alcatraz may have hidden his biggest haul on the island and left a series of coded messages to find it. And solving puzzles is what the Code Busters do best! This interactive mystery features more than fifteen codes and puzzles for you to decipher along with the Code Busters, including Morse code, the tap code, LEET, and zigzag code. Answers are in the back, if you ever get stuck.
Melissa is a nobody. Wilf is a slacker. Bondi is a show-off. At least that’s what their middle school teachers think. To everyone’s surprise, they are the three students chosen to compete for a ten thousand-dollar scholarship, solving clues that lead them to various locations around Chicago. At first the three contestants work independently, but it doesn’t take long before each begins to wonder whether the competition is a sham. It’s only by secretly joining forces and using their unique talents that the trio is able to uncover the truth behind the Ambrose Deception – a truth that involves a lot more than just a scholarship. <p/> With a narrative style as varied and intriguing as the mystery itself, this adventure involving clever clues, plenty of perks, and abhorrent adults is pure wish fulfillment.
It’s Singapore in 1940, war is just around the corner–but 12-year-old Lizard doesn’t know that. He lives in Chinatown above a tailor’s shop, surviving on his wits and hustling for odd jobs. When he steals a small teak box containing a Japanese code book from a Raffles Hotel suite, he finds himself in a dangerous world of wartime espionage. Lizard doesn’t know who to trust. How is the mysterious book inside the box connected to his friend Lili, a girl full of secrets and fighting skills? Can he trust her, or will she betray him in the end?
Acclaimed author Elizabeth Eulberg continues her hilarious middle-grade twist on Sherlock Holmes as detective duo Shelby and Watson tackle their trickiest case yet–going undercover . . . as figure skaters! Being friends with a super sleuth isn’t easy, especially when she’s nine years old, four feet tall, and full of attitude. But for eleven-year-old John Watson, being friends with Shelby Holmes is just the adventure he’s looking for. After Watson’s online journal chronicling his and Shelby’s case-closing abilities attracts the attention of a newspaper reporter, the pair becomes a small “media sensation” in their Harlem neighborhood. So it’s no surprise (at least, to Shelby!) when the article lands them a new client–a figure skating coach whose star athlete, Jordan Nelson, is receiving strange, threatening messages, written entirely in code. There’s no one better to crack the cipher than dynamic duo Shelby and Watson! But to gather information, Shelby decides that they’ll have to go undercover . . . as an award-winning pair skating team. Can they use the laws of physics and their acting skills to maintain their covers and figure out who’s sending Jordan such strange messages before it’s too late?
Back at the Winterhouse hotel for another holiday season, Elizabeth and Freddy dig deeper into the mystery surrounding Riley S. Granger, a hotel guest who left behind odd artifacts―one being a magical book that the evil Gracella Winters once attempted to use to gain destructive power over the entire Falls lineage. The two friends follow a trail of clues, inadvertently attracting the attention of a suspicious new hotel guest: Elana Vesper. The clock is ticking as Elizabeth and Freddy struggle to figure out whether Elana is merely a pawn or a player in the plot to revive the spirit of Gracella. If that wasn’t enough, Elizabeth suspects she is coming into her own special powers―and she’s fearful it might lead her right into Gracella’s vicious web. Mystery, adventure, and a winning friendship combine in this much anticipated sequel.
Kiki and her friends get caught up in a code war to try and meet a narwhal in this sparkling Mermaid Tales adventure. All the merkids are super-excited! Two famous narwhal scientists are visiting Trident City with their daughter, Nadine. Best of all, someone is going to get to show Nadine around the city while her parents are in meetings! But who? All the merkids want to be the one, so how are they going to decide who gets to do it? Mrs. Karp, their teacher, decides to organize a code-breaking contest, but with the competition getting fierce, it is more like a code war! Even Kiki, Echo, and Shelly are fighting! Is there a way that everyone can win?
Riddle Diddle Rainforest - Rhyming animal riddles feature a monkey, a sloth, and other rainforest animals hiding under the flaps in this lift-the-flap board book.
Winterhouse - Elizabeth, eleven, spends Christmas break at Winterhouse hotel under strange circumstances, where she discovers that she has magic, and her love of puzzles helps her solve a mystery.
How I Became a Spy: A Mystery of WWII London - From the award-winning author of
The Clue in the Crossword Cipher - Lovely young Carla Ponce, who lives in Peru, invites Nancy and her friends Bess and George to visit her and solve her “monkey mystery,” which promises to lead to a fabulous treasure. A clue is carved on an intriguing wooden plaque that is so old, most of the crossword cipher is obliterated. When a notorious gang headed by El Gato (the Cat) steals the priceless relic, Nancy’s hopes of solving the mystery are almost shattered. But the daring young detective’s ability to think fast and act quickly results in the recovery of the plaque. Nancy’s determined efforts to decode the crossword decipher take her to the magnificent, awe-inspiring Incan ruins at Cuzco and Machu Pichu. Through clever deductions, perseverance, and dangerous adventures, Nancy and her friends help to capture a ring of vicious smugglers and go on to make an astounding archaeological discovery.
It’s sink or swim for Jack and Annie when the Magic Tree House whisks them off to the middle of the ocean. Luckily, they find a mini-submarine on a coral reef. Unluckily, they are about to meet a giant octopus and one very hungry shark. Will the dolphins save the day? Or are Jack and Annie doomed to be dinner?
The highly-anticipated Book 2 of the #1 bestselling The 39 Clues series.<br></br>THIS JUST IN! Amy and Dan Cahill were spotted on a train, hot on the trail of one of 39 Clues hidden around the world. BUT WAIT! Police report a break-in at an elite hotel, and the suspects ALSO sound suspiciously like Amy and Dan. UPDATE! Amy and Dan have been seen in a car . . . no, in a speedboat chase . . . and HOLD EVERYTHING! They’re being chased by an angry mob?!? <p/>When there’s a Clue on the line, anything can happen.
Pepper and Jake love herding sheep in the little valley where they live. But there’s a problem– a big problem. Urk, a giant who lives on a nearby mountain, is big and stinky and doesn’t care that dumping dirty laundry water in the nearby stream causes a flood down below every single week. So Pepper and Jake hike to Urk’s mountaintop lair to confront him. But there’s no reasoning with a giant, especially one who gives cryptic puzzles to solve. If the kids can solve it, Urk will move away. If not, Pepper and Jake (and their sheep) will be the featured ingredients in Urk’s next bowl of smelly soup!
This delightful board book will make the little ones in your life giggle at the absurdity of a fly on the phone and a carrot in the tub. The text’s repeated asking Have you ever seen…? preceding the refrain No way! will have toddlers yelling “No way!” themselves as you read through these silly situations. Celebrated artist Elise Gravel brings the silly to a new level in A Potato on a Bike, because really, has anyone ever seen a broccoli counting to ten or a sausage reading a book? But wait, how about a…baby being tickled?! Uh-oh, I think the answer for that is–yes way!
Minutes before she died Grace Cahill changed her will, leaving her decendants an impossible decision: “You have a choice - one million dollars or a clue.”Grace is the last matriarch of the Cahills, the world’s most powerful family. Everyone from Napoleon to Houdini is related to the Cahills, yet the source of the family power is lost. 39 clues hidden around the world will reveal the family’s secret, but no one has been able to assemble them. Now the clues race is on, and young Amy and Dan must decide what’s important: hunting clues or uncovering what REALLY happened to their parents.The 39 Clues is Scholastic’s groundbreaking new series, spanning 10 adrenaline-charged books, 350 trading cards, and an online game where readers play a part in the story and compete for over $100,000 in prizes.The 39 Clues books set the story, and the cards, website and game allow kids to participate in it. Kids visit the website - www.the39clues.com - and discover they are lost members of the Cahill family. They set up online accounts where they can compete against other kids and against Cahill characters to find all 39 clues. Through the website, kids can track their points and clues, manage their card collections, dig through the Cahill archives for secrets, and “travel” the world to collect Cahill artifacts, interview characters, and hunt down clues. Collecting cards helps: Each card is a piece of evidence containing information on a Cahill, a clue, or a family secret.Every kid is a winner - we’ll give away prizes through the books, the website and the cards, including a grand prize of $10,000!
William Wenton and the Secret Portal - William Wenton is a code-breaking genius, but now he faces a new threat—one that’s lurking inside him—in the second book in the William Wenton series that School Library Journal calls “part Alex Rider, part Da Vinci Code for kids, and part Artemis Fowl.”
William Wenton and the Impossible Puzzle - Also published in English as: William Wenton and the luridium thief.
The Gingerbread Man Loose at the Zoo - Is there anything more fun than a class trip to the zoo? The Gingerbread Man and his classmates don’t think so, and they get to solve riddles on a WILD scavenger hunt. They meet giraffes, monkeys, and even a fox (especially scary for a Gingerbread Man!). But a zoo full of critters is a tricky place for a tasty cookie—even a very fast one—and the Gingerbread Man ends up separated from his friends. He needs to solve all of the riddles to catch up with his class and help someone else who is lost. I’ll be a detective. I know that I can! I’ll solve all these clues. I’m the Gingerbread Man! Animals galore and a trail of clues make the Gingerbread Man’s latest adventure his wildest one yet.
The Apple Orchard Riddle - Mr. Tiffin and his students from the perenially popular <i>How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?</i> are back in this picture book about a school trip to an apple orchard! <p/>In this playful, humorous, and child-friendly classroom story, the students learn a lot about apples and apple orchards–including how apples are harvested, how cider is made, and what the different varieties of apples are–while trying to solve a riddle. The book also celebrates how some children learn differently than others. <p/>Margaret McNamara and illustrator G. Brian Karas bring us another fun and educational picture book.
State birds, flowers, trees, and animals brought to board book form for the youngest book lovers. Toddlers will delight in these books filled with rhyming riddles framed by brightly painted clues, introducing elements that make each state so special.
Lucas’s father has recently died in Afghanistan, and to help him cope, his grandmother sends him to Camp Kawani, a camp for kids who have lost a parent. While there, he hears about the local legend of Thomas Jefferson Beale. Beale supposedly hid a hoard of gold in the mountains 200 years before. The location is encrypted in a set of codes no one has ever been able to decipher. When Lucas and his newfound friends decide to track down the treasure, they embark on a mission that could be too dangerous to survive.
Did you enjoy our children's book recommendations? Did you know you can help us improve this list? Check out our Community Handbook and learn how to add tags to books.