The Enigma Girls: How Ten Teenagers Broke Ciphers, Kept Secrets, and Helped Win World War II

­Scholastic Focus. Mar. 2024. 384p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781338749571.
Gr 8 Up–A thrilling account of how teen girls helped break Nazi code intercepted during World War II. Through impeccable research and magnetic writing, Fleming uncovers the lives of young women who were recruited to live and work at Bletchley Park in the UK countryside, often leaving their homes for the first time, without knowledge as to how they would be aiding the war effort. From all walks of life and with different skills to commend them, the Wrens, part of the female branch of the UK’s Royal Navy, were sworn to secrecy and threatened with treason charges and death if their mission was ever revealed to their families. Readers are given a mix of personal stories set against the backdrop of major World War II events, such as the London Blitz, Pearl Harbor, and D-Day. The teens’ efforts influenced these monumental milestones, and the gravity of their work was not lost on them. Still, they were young women who played pranks on one another, liked to dress up for local dances, and got homesick. Intermingled throughout are “Top Secret” chapters that feature in-depth explanations of the type of work the Enigma girls (named after the Enigma machine they used to break Nazi code) did, such as illustrating the difference between codes and ciphers and how to decipher coded messages. Fleming captures the emotional and psychological burdens that these teenagers carried and balances it with detailed descriptions of the technology used to carry out their lifesaving tasks. The narrative is broken up by copious black-and-white photographs of the rooms the Wrens worked in; important figures of the time, such as Winston Churchill; the machines they worked on; and other wartime events. The work features a bibliography, source notes, index, and more.
VERDICT Fleming does it again! Purchase this compelling blend of WWII, cryptography, and women’s history that will mesmerize middle schoolers and inspire them to make an indelible impact on history, too.

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