Decode the story of Elizebeth Friedman, the cryptologist who took down gangsters and Nazi spies
In this picture book biography, young readers will learn all about Elizebeth Friedman (1892-1980), a brilliant American code breaker who smashed Nazi spy rings, took down gangsters, and created the CIA's first cryptology unit. Her story came to light when her secret papers were finally declassified in 2015. From thwarting notorious rumrunners with only paper and pencil to "counter-spying into the minds and activities of" Nazis, Elizebeth held a pivotal role in the early days of US cryptology. No code was too challenging for her to crack, and Elizebeth's work undoubtedly saved thousands of lives. Extensive back matter includes explanations of codes and ciphers, further information on cryptology, a bibliography, a timeline of Elizebeth's life, plus secret messages for young readers to decode.
Gr 2-4--This picture book biography introduces Elizebeth Smith Friedman (1892-1980), a pioneering white American code breaker who helped establish and develop the science of cryptology. After beginning with one case that resulted in the conviction of 33 German spies, the main narrative traces her life chronologically. Friedman's love of poetry and language sparked an early interest in code-making exercises. This eventually led to her pioneering accomplishments in the relatively new science of cryptology. During World War I, Friedman and her husband William "set up the country's first code-breaking unit." Brief descriptions of specific cases provide insight into the challenges and importance of her work, which included aiding the Coast Guard to prosecute bootleggers, key cases in both world wars, and the establishment of the first cryptography department for the Office of Strategic Services. Numerous quotes from Friedman add context and a more personal connection. Her life as a mother and author was regularly interrupted by government requests for her unusual skills. Watercolor and gouache drawings depict a rich visual background to Friedman's life and career, including glimpses of her family and more dramatic scenes of trials and criminals. There's just enough information about how codes work to inform readers without overwhelming them. Some of the illustrations show basic examples of code-breaking; the text also introduces simple concepts. Back matter describes basic code types and offers a "Crack the Code" challenge. VERDICT An engaging introduction to a unique woman in a fascinating field.--Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville P.L., ORCopyright 2021 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.