Alpha, Bravo, Charlie: The Complete List of Nautical Codes

Pirates used to raise the skull and crossbones to send a message to unfortunate crews who found themselves within their range of fire: prepare to be attacked. The jolly roger no longer strikes fear into sailors’ hearts today (modern pirates aren’t that obvious), but there is another system of nautical flags that has been in use for hundreds of years. Universal signal flags are flown by boats across the globe to communicate vital information like ‘keep your distance, we are carrying dangerous cargo’ and ‘man overboard’.

Signal flags correspond to letters of the alphabet. This unique reference book guides the reader from ‘Alpha’ to ‘Zulu’, with the twenty-six flags beautifully recreated on heavy, fabric-like paper. It simultaneously demonstrates both the Morse code and the semaphore signal for each letter. Gillingham even finds space for quick explainers on twenty-six different types of vessel, ranging from the massive aircraft carrier to the tiny pilot boat.

This is a lot of information to pack into one book, but the clear layout, simple illustrations, and highly readable text prevent confusion and keep the reader engaged. While Alpha, Bravo, Charlie won’t appeal to every child, those with an interest in boats or flags will be charmed. Older readers also shouldn’t be put off by the guide’s picturebook style, as it will prove an invaluable tool for anyone who enjoys learning how to communicate using different codes.