A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Al Capone Does My Homework: A Tale from Alcatraz is engaging and interesting, just like the first two books in the series: the Newbery Honor Book Al Capone Does My Shirts and Al Capone Shines My Shoes. Moose comes into his own as his responsibility for caring for his autistic sister increases. Their relationship develops as he grows to understand that Natalie isn't just a burden, but an intelligent person and his older sister. Moose's best friend Annie also matures and develops from a boxy kid to a tall, willowy young woman. He becomes attracted to her and is both confused and pleased by his attraction (an insightful view into blossoming love. There's one sweet, age-appropriate kiss. The kids on the Rock are intrigued by the convicts as well as afraid and disgusted by their creepy behavior, such as eating live bugs, and their dangerous criminal pasts. There's one incident of violence, when a guard is stabbed by a prisoner with a stolen kitchen knife and is rushed to the hospital. This happens quickly and without a lot of detail or gore.
What's the story?
It's the beginning of 1936 and Moose's father has just been promoted to the position of Assistant Warden of Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. This causes Moose no end of worries, because with the promotion comes danger. Mean guard Darby Trixle is jealous of Moose's dad and feels he was more deserving of the warden job. Additionally, Moose hears rumors that the prisoners try to harm the wardens to score points on a sinister game they play among themselves. When a fire destroys his family's apartment and his autistic sister is blamed, Moose and his friends set out to solve the mystery of how the fire really started. Counterfeit money, a stolen knife, and a card-cheating scheme keep the pages turning in this intriguing story.
Is it any good?
There's a lot of action to keep the reader engaged in AL CAPONE DOES MY HOMEWORK -- involving gambling, a stolen knife, and counterfeit money. In addition, Al Capone adds a sense of style to the story, just as he did at Alcatraz during his time there. Although he plays a minor role in this book, he does give Moose an important clue that helps save his father's life.
Moose is a wonderful character who's further developed in this book as his relationships with both his sister Natalie and his best friend Annie change. Even though he's often embarrassed by Natalie's behavior, as well as tired of his responsibility for her, he begins to see that she has her own wisdom and sense of self. In the end, Moose lets Natalie choose to make an important decision herself. She also uses her special abilities to catch a crook. Annie has changed from a boxy kid to a willowy young lady. It's an interesting twist to see Moose's friendship with her change as he realizes she's more than his best friend and more than a crush.
Talk to your kids about ...
Moose and his friends are good kids who break and bend rules, like trying to communicate with the convicts. Rules are often made to keep kids safe. Discuss "3 Big Rules Your Kids May Be Breaking Online" and discuss these online rules and laws.
Scout categorizes all girls as either "lookers," "okey-dokeys," or "aunties." How does the way boys view girls affect how girls think of themselves and their body image?
- Author: Gennifer Choldenko
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, History, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
- Publication date: August 20, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 10 - 12
- Number of pages: 224
- Available on: Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, Kindle
- Last updated: June 20, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.