Study Guide

Al Capone Does My Shirts Honesty

By Gennifer Choldenko


If everyone's noses were built like Pinocchio's, the kids on Alcatraz would all have super long schnozzes. Tall tales are just part of the experience of growing up on Alcatraz in Al Capone Does My Shirts. How else would Moose and Piper convince all their friends off the island that life is a thrilling and dangerous adventure back home?

But tall tales are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to lies and deceit in this book. We see a much more serious side of not telling the truth as the Flanagan family tries to deal with Natalie's condition, especially when it comes to Mom. These kinds of lies aren't the mean, malicious kind—in fact, they're an effort to make life easier—but it's definitely a big lesson to learn that pretending things are different only makes life harder. After all, when you lie to protect someone you love, sometimes you end up hurting them instead. So yeah, honesty is the best policy.

Questions About Honesty

  1. What's the difference between the tall tales the kids tell at school and Mrs. Flanagan's lies about Natalie? Get down into the nitty gritty details, please.
  2. Does something happen to make Moose realize how important honesty is, or is it always a part of his character? Give evidence from the text.
  3. Do you think Mrs. Flanagan is so stressed out throughout the story because she's trying to hold onto a lie, rather than accept the truth? Again, prove your answer by turning to the book.

Chew on This

There are two different types of dilemmas about honesty in this book: One involves kids telling tall tales, and the other involves adults being dishonest about much more important things. It's apples and oranges, really.

Moose learns that honesty is the only way to get through life—even the parts that are difficult to face.

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