Secret codes, spy tricks and a special giveaway!

posted in: Colin King, Falcon Travis, Judy Hindley | 53

**THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. It was won by no. 10 – Catherine**

Recently M has been leaving unusual things around the house:

Eyes of all sorts, mostly not much bigger than a matchbox, have been appearing on walls and cupboards
Eyes of all sorts, mostly not much bigger than a matchbox, have been appearing on walls and cupboards

We grownups didn’t know what to make of them. But soon it became clear – these were M’s spies, set up to report back to her on what her parents got up to when M wasn’t around! (Perhaps she’d seen this article in the newspaper: “Life without me: stories about what goes on when a child is elsewhere“).

"I watch what happens for my mistress M_____"
“I watch what happens for my mistress M_____”

Secrets, and being able to sneak things past your parents and siblings, are staples of childhood I guess. Secret diaries, hiding behind furniture, dressing up in disguises are certainly much enjoyed by both my two girls, and so I knew that when I introduced them to The KnowHow Book of Spycraft by Falcon Travis and Judy Hindley, illustrated by Colin King it would go down well.

24 The KnowHow Book of Spycraft200pxThe KnowHow Book of Spycraftis all about keeping secrets. It shows you how to set up secret meeting places and a secret post office and how to disguise your messages and maps.

It’s packed with projects and puzzles and practical advice. Whether you want tips on the best places to hide secret messages or how to create your own secret code this books is a thrilling read. It opens the door to all sorts of possibilities, and can inject an awful lot of excitement and intrigue into a rainy afternoon (of which we’ve been having a lot recently).

Two aspects of this book are particularly special. For a start, the activities are all simple, yet spark many more flights of imagination than their humdrum materials might initially suggest. A simple teabag becomes a secret pocket, a toilet roll tube becomes essential piece of decoding technology. These are activities kids could get going with straight away – no need for a trip to the shops for special materials, or for hours of adult preparation.

M and J painting with invisible ink (lemon juice and milk)
M and J painting with invisible ink (lemon juice and milk)

Then there are the illustrations and design: with aspects familiar from comic strips, and an enigmatic and mysterious central character who leads you through the book – Black Hat – this book keeps you wanting to read just a little bit more.

I have to admit I have a particular soft spot for this book because an early-ish edition of it (though I stress, NOT a first edition, given that this year sees the 40th anniversary of the book’s first publication ;-)) was a book I myself loved as a child. I’m not the only person to feel a particular warmth for this book – in the video below you can watch Peter Usborne, founder and managing director of Usborne Publishing speaking about the concept behind The KnowHow Book of Spycraft – how it came to be published and why it’s still such a brilliant book 40 years on.

This video (and more) is linked to a QR code on the back of every copy of The KnowHow Book of Spycraft.

Now to the giveaway…

I have one instant spy set to give away to a reader.

The spy set contains:

  • The KnowHow Book of Spycraft
  • The Usborne Spy’s Guidebook
  • A set of false moustaches
  • A pair of (brand new) insoles (so you can hide messages in your shoes – full details can be found inside The KnowHow Book of Spycraft)
  • A pair of toy sunglasses to aid your disguise

  • The giveaway is open worldwide. To enter, simply leave a comment on this blog post.

    For extra entries you can:

      (1) Tweet about this giveaway, perhaps using this text:
      Win a kids’ spy kit (inc books, disguises, tools) over on @playbythebook’s blog #giveaway #worldwide
      (2) Share this giveaway on your Facebook page or blog

    You must leave a separate comment for each entry for them to count.

  • The winner will be chosen at random using
  • The giveaway is open for one week, and closes on Monday 10th June 6am UK time. I will contact the winner via email. If I do not hear back from the winner within one week of emailing them, I will re-draw a winner.

  • Good luck!

    My thanks go to the publishers, Usborne, for donating the two books for this giveaway.

    **THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. It was won by no. 10 – Catherine**

    53 Responses

    1. Helen

      This looks great, we’ve been doing simple codes this weekend and would love to win!
      Helen recently posted..AniMatch

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