Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Recommendation: *** (3-stars)

Wondering what Jr. High kids are reading in school these days? This is one of the books my 7th grade son recently read for his English class. It was pretty entertaining and had some thought provoking moments as well.

It's 1935 and Moose Flanagan and his family have just moved to Alcatraz. His father has taken a job working in the prison and Moose is less than happy about the situation. The reason for the move is to help Moose's sister Natalie get into a school that will help her. Today,  Natalie would be diagnosed as autistic, but in 1935 all kinds of schools and treatments were being tested on children like her. The story is given from Moose's perspective - a 12 year old, baseball loving boy, who has just left behind his friends and now lives next to a prison. The group of kids who also live on the island are an unlikely bunch, but they manage to get each other in and out of trouble regularly. With plenty of humor and emotional appeal this is a well-told story with a fantastic, unpredictable ending.

Positives: The family relationships were real and intact. This family wasn't without its faults, but they were fierce in their love and care for each other. They were willing to work through the difficulties life dealt them together and fight for and with each other.

Negatives: The kids who live on Alcatraz regularly lie to their schoolmates about life on Alcatraz and break the rules they are supposed to follow on the island. They are punished for their schemes at one point, but it doesn't stop them for long.

Talking Points: Moose, like all kids (and adults), struggled with what he knew to be right, and his own selfish desires. He had a heavy conscience when he behaved wrongly. We all have the law of God written on our heart. Whether we acknowledge wrongdoing as sin or not, we know when we have broken God's law. Talk with your kids about their conscience and the role of the Holy Spirit in conviction. Every person has been given a conscience, but only believer's have the Holy Spirit. We all know when we have broken a law, but we do not all have the ability to repent and change our actions.  Talk through the gospel and help  your kids see that acknowledging their sin (conscience) is the first step, but repentance can only come through the Holy Spirit working in their heart and helping them to change. Romans 2:14-15 talk about our knowledge of the law and our conscience. Eph. 2 tells us that apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives we cannot change. Impress on the hearts of your kids the importance of a changed heart, a changed life - through the power of the Holy Spirit and the work of Christ on the cross, and not just being a moral person.
Age Level: 10 years of age and up

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