Tag Archives: Choldenko (author)

Al Capone Does My Homework Review

al_capone_does_my_homeworkAl Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013. 978-0803734722

Synopsis: Alcatraz isn’t exactly a normal place to grow up, but for twenty-four of us kids, it’s home. And really, having a bunch of notorious criminals as neighbors isn’t so bad…if only you know what they’re up to. Turns out the cons have a point system for targeting the guards, and now that my dad is the Associate Warden, that’s a big deal. Plus, there was that fire in our apartment that Darby Trixle wants to blame on Natalie. How am I supposed be responsible for everybody when I can hardly be responsible for myself?

Why I picked it up: I love good historical fiction and Choldenko has really brought a new life to 1930s Alcatraz and its residents.

Why I finished it: I don’t know that I would go so far as to call this the conclusion to Moose and Natalie’s story because I’m pretty sure it lives on in the stories of its real-life residents and the story will keep going in the hearts of the books’ fans. Moose feels like he’s taking on more and more responsibility now that his dad has been named Associate Warden, a fire consumes their apartment, and Moose’s mom is depending on him to take care of Natalie when she’s giving piano lessons. Plus, he’s noticed that his friend Annie seems…different…prettier…. Everything just seems so out of control even after he convinces his friends to help him investigate the cause of the fire in 2E. Choldenko’s afterword says that in the 1930s, there were no fire escapes in the buildings where the guard families were housed, and although there were never any major fires in the building, it’s hard to think about in the modern age. But while Moose’s story is fiction, it’s intriguing to think about how families lived with con artists and murderers as their neighbors and the confusion it could cause for people that lived in the city. It’s a story with a big heart that shows us the meaning of friendship, family, and overcoming obstacles.

Other related materials: Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko; Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko; If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko; Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper; Paperboy by Vince Vawter; Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos; From Norvelt to Nowhere by Jack Gantos; A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff; Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage; The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage; Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan; The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata, illustrated by Julia Kuo; The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech; P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia


Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

Al Capone Shines My Shoes Review

Al_Capone_Shines_My_ShoesAl Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2009. 978-0803734609

Synopsis: When I first moved to Alcatraz, I thought all of the prisoners were on one side of the bars and everyone else was on the other. But lately, I’m not so sure. I mean, Darby Trixle’s been more on my case than usual because of Natalie and I got another note from Capone in my laundry. Turns out, since he helped Natalie get into that Esther P. Marinoff School, now I have to do a favor for him….

Why I picked it up: I wanted to know more about what happens with Moose, Natalie, Piper, and the rest of the residents of Alcatraz.

Why I finished it: Choldenko has masterfully created a story that is just as grounded in reality as it is in fiction. The sequel is just as engaging as its predecessor, and it continues to grow and develop the characters in such a way that it’s hard to believe they weren’t really residents on the island. In this tale, Moose is learning hard lessons about friendships when he tries to juggle a friendship with Jimmy and Scout, Piper and Annie, and Theresa and Natalie. He becomes so focused on trying to keep everyone happy that he is gradually destroying his own sanity in the process. Plus, he has to deal with the pressure of trying to return a favor for The Rock’s most notorious resident without completely feeling like he’s betrayed his family. Choldenko’s afterword sheds some light on the events of the book, debunking what was real and what wasn’t: the residents weren’t waiters when J. Edgar Hoover came to visit, but there was in fact an escape attempt called the Battle of Alcatraz in 1946. This book is just as packed with adventure and drama as the first and keeps the reader engaged from beginning to end. It’s a small slice of the real world served up with just the right amount of sugary narrative to satisfy the imagination.

Other related materials: Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Chloldenko; Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko; Notes from a Liar and Her Dog by Gennifer Choldenko; No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko; If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko; Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead; Paperboy by Vince Vawter; Rules by Cynthia Lord; Alcatraz from Inside: The Hard Years 1942-1952 by Jim Quillen; Inside the Walls of Alcatraz by Frank Heaney and Gay Machado; Eyewitness on Alcatraz: Life on The Rock as Told by the Guards, Families, & Prisoners by Jolene Babyak

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews

Al Capone Does My Shirts Review

al_capone_does_my_shirtsAl Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Putnam Juvenile, 2004. 978-0399238611

Synopsis: It’s hard to move to a new home, especially when your neighbors are some of the most notorious murderers, con men, burglars, kidnappers, embezzlers, rapists, and hit men. Sure, there are other kids there whose dads work as guards, cooks, electricians, and doctors, like your dad. But there’s not really much good that comes from moving the Alcatraz; I mean, you’re only supposed to go to Alcatraz when no other prison wants you, right? So how did I end up here even though I’m not a criminal? My mother told me I had to.

Why I picked it up: It was a Battle of the Books selection for this year and the idea of living on Alcatraz is rather intriguing to me.

Why I finished it: While the title in and of itself is intriguing, it was the historical element of the story that kept me turning the pages. Though Moose Flanagan and his sister Natalie are fictional characters, there were families like theirs that lived on Alcatraz during the years that the penitentiary was operational from 1934-1963. And yes, there was a laundry service that was run by cons, so there is a distinct possibility that Al Capone did wash the shirts of the Alcatraz residents. Moose is a likable young man and Choldenko seems to have an eye into his mind as he struggles with the move, school, and his autistic sister. As much as Moose tries to be normal, he has to come to terms with the fact that very little about his life is normal. The other children – Theresa, Annie, Jimmy, and Piper – almost make the ‘glamour’ of living with convicts while the country is in the midst of a depression seem ordinary. It’s a sweet and passionate picture of a boy and his family struggling both in their personal lives and their public lives that speaks to the power of love and the little everyday miracles that make even the most disastrous situations seem okay.

Other related materials: Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko; Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko; Notes from a Liar and her Dog by Gennifer Choldenko; Autism, The Invisible Cord: A Sibling’s Diary by Barbara S. Cain; Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes by Jennifer Elder, illustrated by Marc Thomas; Everybody is Different: A Book for Young People Who Have Brothers and Sisters with Autism by Fiona Bleach; Rules by Cynthia Lord; Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper; Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos; Joey Pigza Loses Control by Jack Gantos; Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo; Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse; Hoot by Carl Hiaasen; Call Me Hope by Gretchen Olson

Leave a comment

Filed under reviews