I spent time last night writing a post on a different topic, but then hit a snag that made it “unpublishable.” So I decided to answer this overdue letter instead. That’s right, a special Monday edition of Fan Mail Wednesday!
Dear: Mr. Preller
My name is Benjamin. I am 6 years old and in grade one. I am doing a project on secret codes. I have read some of your Jigsaw Jones mystery books and would like to know all of the secret codes that you use in your stories.
How do they work? How do you decide what codes to use in your books? Where did you come up with the idea to use secret codes and how did you get the idea to do the ones you use?
My favorite book is The Case of the Spooky Sleepover.
I like the secret codes you use in your books, a lot.
Thanks a lot for your note. Or let me try that in code:
AADVARK WRITE RAIN THANKS BUT WINDY A HAVE BASEBALL WILL SHUCKS BREEZY LOT YOU FOR HAIL FOR TRUST US MONKEYS SUNSHINE YOUR ZIP ZAP POW SNOW NOTE COOL.
Did you figure it out? I used a Weather Code. The only words that mattered were the ones that came right after a weather word. So to solve the secret message, just circle all the weather words. Then underline all the words that come next. The underlined words — or the words that come immediately after a “weather word” — make up your secret message.
What’s fun about the Weather Code is that you can easily change it to make up new codes in the same manner. A Baseball Code. A Color Code. An Animal Code. Whatever you want.
As a kid, I definitely thought that codes were awesome. So when I started this series, I knew I had to include a new code in every book. I’ve used many different codes, including Substitution Codes, Space Codes, Up and Down Codes, Alternate Letter Codes, Telephone Codes, IPPY codes, Vowel Codes — even Pig Latin.
Today as a writer, I love codes because they offer clever ways of playing with language. I think readers learn by puzzling over codes. You have to use Brain Power.
Benjamin, I could talk about codes forever. I’ve built a small collection of different books about codes and I keep them on a nearby shelf. I read through them to find a code that seems right for Jigsaw. That’s part of the research I do for my job, and I love it. Even better, I discovered that after I learned a few codes, that I could make up my own. And you can, too!
IPPY Codes are also fun. All you have to do is add the letters IP after every consonant in each word. So the word DOG becomes DIPOGIP and SLIME becomes SIPLIPIMIPE. Of course, it’s important to know a consonant from a vowel — but I bet you do.
DIPOGIP SIPLIPIMIPE = DOG SLIME!
To learn all the codes I’ve used, I’m afraid you’ll have to read all my books. Oh, the misery! Or, hey, wait: You could buy the book, Jigsaw Jones’ Detective Tips. It doesn’t include every code I’ve ever used, but it will help you think, look, and act like a top detective.
Okay, here’s another code. It’s called a Zigzag Code. You have to start at the top left, read down, then up in a zigzag, then down, in a zigzag pattern. The tricky part is that there are no spaces between each word, so you have extra work to do.
C N O S L E Y Y T R C D
A Y U O V M M S E Y O E
Space Codes are also easy to write (but harder to solve). All the words are spelled correctly and in the right order, but the spaces are in the wrong places. When you write the message, just put the spaces in weird places.
THA NKSF OR YO URLET TERB EN JAMIN!
Thank you so much for your quick reply to Benjamin’s email. He was very excited to hear back from you.
Thanks, Ms. Curnew. But in the future, I expect your comments to be in code.