Posted tagged ‘Secret codes’

PB Review: The Clothesline Code

February 18, 2021

The Clothesline Code: The Story of Civil War Spies Lucy Ann and Dabney Walker written by Janet Halfmann and illustrated by Trisha Mason, Brandylane Publishers, Inc., 2021

Have you ever thought about becoming a spy? Is it dangerous? What if you get caught? Award-winning author, Janet Halfmann‘s newest book, The Clothesline Code, tells a compelling story about Dabney and Lucy Ann Walker, two black patriots, who fled slavery and became spies for the Union Army during the Civil War.

Dabney and Lucy Ann found refuge and work in a Union camp near the Rappahannock River in Virginia. Lucy Ann worked as a laundress, and Dabney worked as a cook and scout. Camped across the river was Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army. Major General Hooker of the Union army wanted to find out every detail about the enemy. Dabney volunteered to help by becoming a spy. He told Lucy Ann about the flags the Union soldiers used to send coded messages. Together the two of them came up with a clever way to use different colors of clothing and different patterns of hanging laundry on a clothesline to send messages across the river.

Dabney and Lucy Ann worked hard to flesh out every single detail of their code and practiced until they knew exactly how to work it. It was time for Lucy Ann to take her place as a spy. She used her wits to cross the Rappahannock River and blend in with the other women doing laundry in the Confederate camp. She washed clothes for General Lee and his officers, and she also cooked for them. She was in the perfect place to gather information. Spying was a dangerous job, but the clothesline code worked well. Dabney decoded the messages sent by Lucy Ann which then provided General Hooker with valuable information about the enemy forces. Janet Halfmann has written a powerful story of two extraordinary black patriots who were willing to risk their lives so others could enjoy freedom. Trisha Mason‘s illustrations help tell the Walkers’ story, depicting emotions of fear and elation experienced by Dabney and Lucy Ann. This book is a fascinating look at American history and how two heroic people came up with an ingenious idea to help the Union Army during the Civil War.

A perfect book to celebrate African American History Month!

Number Please

January 7, 2011

Do you know the secret code behind a book’s ISBN?

The ISBN on a book without a bar code on the back cover has long been an annoyance to me. I tend to transpose the numbers when I’m adding them to the computer program in our library. I really didn’t care much about the numbers as long as I got them into the computer correctly. Then along came a Q & A in the local paper explaining the meaning of a book’s ISBN. Lo and behold, their secret code was unlocked for me!

Many of you probably know the code behind the numbers, but for those of us who are ISBN challenged, let me tell you what I found out.

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. Beginning in 2007, the ISBN has been a 13-digit number. For 30 years previous to that, it was a 10-digit number. Every book has a distinct number that identifies one title or an edition of a title from one particular publisher. These numbers can be used to search or order a book. There are five parts to an ISBN, and each of the parts is separated by a hyphen. It begins with a standard number, 978. The next part signifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers. The code is 0 for the United States. That is followed by numbers that identify the publisher within a group. The fourth part identifies a particular title or an edition of a title. The last part of the ISBN is a single digit that’s known as a check digit. Its purpose is to validate the ISBN.    

Okay, you may not be interested in cracking the ISBN secret code, but think of the new information you’ve just packed away into the recesses of your brain. Aren’t you glad you have all this knowledge?


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