Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Al Capone Does My Homework

The title of this book totally sucked me in when I saw it on the new books shelf at work. I later found out that the author Gennifer Choldenko has a series with similar titles. I like these historical fiction books that older kids and tweens can get into. If however you are expecting Scarface Al Capone to be shootin' up the place you will be in for a let down.

Al Capone is Alcatraz island's most famous resident, so says the main character Moose whose father   has just been named associate warden. This however makes him a target for the prisoners who have a points system for things like spitting at a warden and even maiming or killing one. Moose finds out  and is determined to protect his dad.  One great takeaway that I got from this book was that the island had residents who lived there and were in essence trapped there along with the cons. Moose describes having to take certain boats to the mainland to do this and that.

That is not Moose's only job however, his sixteen year old sister Natalie is autistic (the book doesn't say this but from her behavior it seems that she is) and whenever she is home from boarding school Moose has to take  of her and help her navigate all the social situations that she can't or won't.

When a night fire destroys their apartment Natalie is blamed by another warden and soon the small community starts treating Moose' family differently. Moose and his friends endeavor to find the real cause of the blaze. Al Capone only appears in this novel for a short bit but his cameo is important.

Choldenko did a lot of painstaking research and in the end notes describes how she gleaned inspiration from various sources to form the characters. Some of the prisoners are based on real people and she explored facets of how she thinks they might have behaved.

This book is a good yarn that kids will enjoy and hopefully it will inspire them to read a bit ore about some of America's greatest villains and rogues and the time period in which they lived.

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