Review Blog

Oct 30 2014

Al Capone does my homework by Gennifer Choldenko

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Hot Key Books, 2014. ISBN 9781471402869
(Age: 10+)Recommended. In 1935 Matthew 'Moose' Flanagan's family move to Alcatraz Island so that his father can work as a guard and his older sister, Natalie, who has autism, can attend a special school in San Francisco. Alcatraz is a very different place back in the 30's and Al Capone is obviously one of its prison inmates.Life is rather complicated, for numerous reasons, and Moose seems to get himself into trouble very easily. Dad is always busy and Mum is constantly helping Natalie, and there is never enough money. Moose wants to help but his efforts often backfire. Moose has been introduced in two previous books, Al Capone Does My Shirts (Newbery Honour Book) and Al Capone Shines My Shoes, and the series is proving very popular. Apart from the fact that the reader gains insight into life on Alcatraz at the time, and Choldenko has researched this well, the characters play out a great story with wonderful humour.Poignant moments with Natalie and her family (the author's sibling had autism), relationship wrangles with Moose and his friends, spy games at the prison and work worries with Moose's parents, are situations which hold the readers' attention. To a large extent the young ones are dealing with the adult problems and it is interesting to note the general ignorance in the community about Natalie's special needs. A fire burns down much of the family home and it is Moose who sets about proving Natalie's innocence when other families are convinced that she is dangerous and better taken off the island. This is a great and clever book, quirky and so enjoyable to read.
Julie Wells

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