Monday, 8 April 2013

The KnowHow Book of Spycraft by Falcon Travis, Judy Hindley and Colin King (Usborne Publishing)

When I first encountered this fantastic book, it was probably one of the most heavily demanded books in our school library. For a generation of kids who thought James Bond was the bees knees, and who regularly demanded the fabulous Palitoy 'spy set' (remember those? Water squirting camera? cheap binoculars?) for christmases and birthdays, this book was nigh on essential and one of Usborne's earliest batch of releases.

It's still a great favourite of Peter Usborne himself and it's not difficult to see why, so it's brilliant news to hear that it's being re-released so a whole new generation can dip into its heady mix of secret codes, ciphers and disguises. We took a look at an early paper copy preview and it's great to see it again after all this time.

I was rather hoping that Charlotte would see something in this like I did when I was a whippersnapper - and thankfully she's got that sort of enquiring mind and appreciation of the thrills and skills involved in international espionage that she took to it like a duck to water.

"The KnowHow Book of Spycraft" is the perfect book for boys or girls who revel in puzzles, code-cracking and brain-taxing stuff. See how some of the world's most famous secret codes and methods of communication developed, construct yourself a false chin from papier mache. There aren't any chapters about fitting machine guns to your dad's car headlights or rigging up an ejector seat to deal with Grandma if she keeps trumping on long journeys alas, but it's brilliant fun and Colin King's fantastic illustrations remind me why Usborne books have always been a cut above the rest when it comes to interesting content and fab subjects.

The book will be re-released in time for Usborne's 40th anniversary so look out for it in June, and keep a sharp eye out for the black hat spy!

Charlotte's best bit: We had a lot of fun doing some invisible writing and drawing using wax resist.

Daddy's favourite bit: So many memories came flooding back of this, and all the daft spy toys and gadgets I was hooked on as a kid. Brilliant to hear it's being reissued!