With a name like Al Capone Does My Homework, one might assume this third novel in the series by Gennifer Choldenko would be a fun and light-hearted account of growing-up on the notorious island of Alcatraz, but it is anything but that. That is not to say it is all serious and grim, but rather that is deals with some heavy topics: siblings who are mentally disabled, acceptance by those around you, betrayal by others, as well as the normal things that come with being a teenager. Throwing it all together in a novel that is loosely based on history, which is explained in a detailed Author’s Notes at the end of the novel, makes for an interesting read. With love, betrayal, mystery and a little help from the notorious Al Capone, this is a novel that pulls the reader in and warms the heart.
Moose seems to be your typical thirteen-year-old boy with girl troubles, family woes, and trying to figure out who he is, but his life is anything but normal as he is the son of a warden for Alcatraz Prison and he also calls the island home. From responsibilities for his sister to worry for his dad, who now has a bullseye on his back, Moose has a huge weight on his shoulders. It is up to him to figure out how to still be a kid and enjoy life, and that is what Al Capone Does My Homework is all about.
This novel stands alone and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not having read the first two novels of the series, but I was left with wanting to go back and read them.
Profanity/Language: 6 religious exclamations.
Violence/Gore: Discussion of how inmates have a point system for violent acts toward others with details given (i.e. stabbing guard=250, death bonus:warden=5000); 2 characters escape a burning apartment resulting from arson; 2 characters get in a fist fight after one accuses the other of cheating at a card game; character that is mentally handicapped bites another in a fit of rage; character is attacked by another with a knife and is stabbed resulting is a severe injury; guards shot at man who stabbed the person as he jumps into the water.
Sex/Nudity: 2 married adults kiss; a boy and girl share brief kiss.
Mature Subject Matter:
Mentally handicapped relative, death threats.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Several accounts of adults smoking cigarettes.