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The Secret Code

by Coen Hartman
1980 / 195 pages

Hank and Dick are two average teenagers who dive into the deep end of adventure and espionage. The boys’ adventure begins when they agree to help a produce grocer hold down his shop while he picks some forgotten asparagus from his warehouse. While managing the shop, a customer gives the boys an envelope with instructions to deliver it to the grocer when he returns. Due to the boys’ forgetfulness and curiosity, the envelope is not delivered to the grocer until after they have copied the message it contained. This message, much to their delight, was a secret code! After some attempted decoding the boys are well on their way to one of the most thrilling and dangerous times of their young lives. 

I had a great time reading this novel and would recommend it to any reader twelve and up. The pacing and suspense of the story made it very difficult for me to put the book down. I appreciated that this book is clearly written by a Christian author. Both boys recognize sin and grapple with their own guilt. Another very unique aspect of this novel is that the secret code is actually a numerical code that the reader can attempt to crack on their own before it is solved. 

One caution: do not read the back-cover blurb! It does a great job summarizing the plot but gives away about half of the story.

Canadians can find this at

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Book Reviews, Children’s fiction

Wambu: the Chieftain’s Son

by Piet Prins 182 pages / 1981 This is a book about cannibals, and that should pique the interest of many a boy reader. Wambu is a young boy himself, living in the deep jungles of New Guinea before the arrival of the white man. His tribe is a small one and they haven’t been able to eat any people for quite some time now so, when Wambu and his father come across a strange girl wandering through their part of the forest, their first inclination is to, well, have her for dinner. Fortunately they have second thoughts and instead adopt the girl, Sirja, into their family. And that's when things get really interesting because Sirja is a new Christian convert. And her newfound faith in the Lord is sharply contrasted with the village’s reliance on pagan gods. Though Wambu likes listening to Sirja’s stories about Moses and Abraham and Jesus, he also likes going hunting with his father and learning about all the evil spirits in the forest. Sirja tells him that the white missionaries are wonderful, but the village’s witch doctor insists that white men are evil spirits who have taken on flesh. Who is Wambu to believe? When Wambu’s village is attacked by a rival headhunting tribe he escapes and goes for help…to the white man! This is a fast-paced book, with loads of interesting information about what it’s like to live in the jungle. Kids will learn that some people find caterpillars delicious, and they eat the insides of trees. Tidbits like this are thrown in throughout the book and make the story all the more intriguing as we are taken into the depths of a very foreign world. The Chieftain’s Son’s only fault is that it doesn’t have a proper conclusion. It is the first of three books in the Wambu series and the story is incomplete without the other two books so when you buy the first you simply have to buy Wambu: In the Valley of Death, and Wambu: Journey to Manhood as well. And you’ll want to order them all at the same time, because once you start reading you won’t want to have to wait for the other books to arrive. I really wanted to get my girls hooked on this series, but despite repeated attempts, no luck so far. But for boys, maybe ten and over, these are just the sort that fathers could enjoy reading to their children – there is enough action in them even for Dad. You can find them at Inheritance Publications....

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