Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko

I am slowly reading all of the Missouri Mark Twain Awards. As I prepare for summer reading, this has been a nice project to work on. For this summer, I will be doing two programs a week. So starting in June, this blog's focus will mainly be on programming. 

Until then, I wanted to keep focusing on middle grade books. 

This week I finished Al Capone Does my Homework. 


Book Talk 

Moose's father works on Alcatraz Island in the 1930s. It isn't the most normal place to grow up, but it a place to call home. When Moose's father is named Associate Warden, Moose and his family become in danger. It becomes so dangerous in fact that one night when Moose is watching his autistic sister, Natalie, a fire starts in their building. It causes a lot of damage, and Natalie is blamed for starting the fire.  Knowing of Natalie's innocence, Moose tries to find the true culprit. As he investigates he finds out that the prisoners have a game to hurt his dad. Then Moose gets a cryptic note from Al Capone. Could Capone be trying to protect Moose and his family? Moose must try and figure it out before it is too late. 

Book Trailer 


I have always wanted to read this series, but I was in school and never found the time to reading it. That being said, this is the only book that I have read in the series.  Since it is on the Missouri State List, I wanted to read it this way because I know that many of my students and patrons would only read this book as well. I feel like it does do a good job as being a stand alone novel. Not too many series can successfully do that. Hats off to you Chodenko for being awesome! I was a little worried I'd have to read all three books! 

Once I got past this series concern, I really enjoyed this novel. It was exciting & it was very plot driven. I became invested in finding out who started the fire & finding out if Moose's family would be okay. I also liked the message that it sent about people with disabilities. It has a strong message to see people with disabilities as people and not just their disability. I felt like Chodenko did a great job with this.  Although it did have some boy grossness (A boy tries to grow cheese in his belly button), a little violence, and one kiss,  I felt like it would be appropriate to recommend to the right tween.

I know for sure I will be using this book for my outreach. Overall, I happy with this novel and I felt like it deserved three stars. It was a great read before summer reading. 

Discussion Questions 

In the story, is Al Capone a good guy? What makes someone good or bad?  How does Capone help Moose?

How much independence should Natalie have? Do you think it was okay for Moose to let her go into the hospital alone?

Who was responsible for the fire? Why was Natalie blamed for the fire? Was this fair? Could it have been prevented?

At the end of the book, Moose mentions that his dad is a good leader. What makes a good leader?

Moose takes responsibility for his dad’s safety. Why does he do this? What does he do to protect his dad? Would you have done what Moose did in the story, or would you have done something differently?

In the book, Al Capone gives gifts for loyalty. What is loyalty? Why did this work? If he gave you a gift, would you support him?

In the story, the characters use roaches to deliver messages. Why do they do this? If you could use any animal to deliver a message, what would you use & why?

The setting in this book is a unique one. How does living on Alcatraz shape Moose & the story? How would the story be different if the setting was elsewhere (like Missouri). Would you want to live there? The author picked this setting because she was interested in its history. If you wrote a book, where would set your story at?

Moose isn’t particularly interested in school, but he takes interest in his report on President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Why is Moose interested in President Franklin D. Roosevelt? Have you ever enjoyed working on a homework assignment? Or is there an assignment that you learned a lot from?

There is not going to be anymore books in this series! If you could finishing writing this story for this family, how would you write it? Where will Moose and his family live when they are done living in Alcatraz? What will Moose be when he grows up? Do you think Annie & Moose will get married?

Books Like This One 

What are you reading?

- Pamela 

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