I’m putting a lot of things together here all at once.
This started out with a review of Cracking Codes with Python: An Introduction to Building and Breaking Ciphers. This is a book to help you learn middle level to more advanced Python, and at the same time, learn about codes, ciphers, and cryptography. The examples in the book tend to be classic examples, so this is a bit more like learning the history of encoding technologies and practices, and using Python as a way to play around with this interesting material.
After a crash course in Python programming basics, you’ll learn to make, test, and hack programs that encrypt text with classical ciphers like the transposition cipher and Vigenère cipher. You’ll begin with simple programs for the reverse and Caesar ciphers and then work your way up to public key cryptography, the type of encryption used to secure today’s online transactions, including digital signatures, email, and Bitcoin.
Each program includes the full code and a line-by-line explanation of how things work. By the end of the book, you’ll have learned how to code in Python and you’ll have the clever programs to prove it!
As I was looking at that book, this second item came across my desk as well: Serious Cryptography: A Practical Introduction to Modern Encryption by Jean-Philippe Aumasson.
This is not an introductory book. This book is about modern data encryption and security, giving you the math that makes encryption works, covering secure randomness, block ciphers, authenticated encryption, hash functions, and elliptic curve cryptography, that sort of thing. The book uses real world examples, often focusing on what can go wrong (and has gone wrong) so you can learn from extant mistakes.
While I was looking at both of these books, when Huxley asked about codes and “coding.” After establishing that he was talking about cryptography and not programming (given the nature of Cracking Codes with Python, you can understand where there might be some confusion!), I thought he wanted to know more about the history and implementation of the science of secrecy. Perfect for a math-oriented 8 year old!
So, I contacted the publisher of the above two books to see if they had anything for kids. And they did, but really, it is for older kids (and adults). The Manga Guide to Cryptography by Mitani, Sato, and Hinoki, is an introduction to cryptography. Like other Manga books in this series, there is a story, a mystery, in which an individual (Jun Meguro, which I’m going to guess is an encoded message of some kind) on a quest to bring a bad guy to justice. Along the way, the Mysterious Inspector Meguro learns all about cryptograpjhy. I’ve only seen an advanced partial copy of the book, because it isn’t out yet. But apparently you can pre-order it.
However, all along I was misunderstanding Huxley. He didn’t have the language to be specific about what he was looking for. But, by chance, an ancient encryption technique in the Python was the touchstone, a section on an ancient cypher invented by the Romans.
This ultimately led to us getting Besties Deluxe Decoder w/ Secret Decoder Ring. That’s what he was looking for. Except we had to get two. You see, there is a girl in his class that he is best friends with. They are not regularly sending coded messages back and forth…