All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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A video interview with

Gennifer Choldenko


Gennifer grew up in Southern California surrounded by older siblings and cousins who called her names like "Shrimp," "Short Stuff," and "Snot-nose," so maybe it’s not surprising that several of her books feature strong sibling connections and family drama.

In elementary school, Gennifer, spent a lot of time in the library looking for books that she’d enjoy as much as Charlotte's Web or Across Five Aprils, Island of the Blue Dolphins, or A Wrinkle in Time. She recalls that the books with gold and silver Newbery stickers were usually better than the other books she checked out, so it was an unbelievable thrill when one of her own books, Al Capone Does My Shirts, won a Newbery honor in 2005.

Though Gennifer primarily writes middle-grades fiction, she's also written wonderful picture books — Louder, Lili and Moonstruck —for younger children that speak to kids' dreams and worries.

Gennifer lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her family and a German Shepherd named Sophie.

Selected Books

from Gennifer Choldenko

Al Capone Does My Shirts

Age Level: 9-12

When Moose's family moves to Alcatraz so his father can work as a guard and his sister can attend a special school in San Francisco, Moose has to leave his friends and his winning baseball team behind. Moose just wants to protect Natalie, live up to his parent's expectations, and stay out of trouble, but on Alcatraz, trouble is never very far away.

Buy Al Capone Does My Shirts

Al Capone Shines My Shoes

Age Level: 9-12

Nothing is the way it's supposed to be when you live on an island with a billion birds, a ton of bird crap, a few dozen rifles, machine guns and automatics and 278 of America's worst criminals. And then there's Moose Flanagan. Moose's father works as a prison guard and his family lives on the east side of Alcatraz — not far from the mobster Al Capone.

Buy Al Capone Shines My Shoes

No Passengers Beyond This Point

Age Level: 9-12

Three siblings — India, Finn, and Mouse — have less than 48 hours to pack up all their belongings and fly, without Mom, to their uncle Red's in Colorado, after they lose their house to foreclosure. When they land, a mysterious driver meets them at the airport, and he's never heard of Uncle Red. Like Dorothy in Oz, they find themselves in a place they've never heard of, with no idea of how to get home.

Buy No Passengers Beyond This Point

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period

Age Level: 9-12

Kirsten's parents are fighting and her best friend has suddenly joined the popular crowd. Walker is the only black student at his new private school and his single mom watches over him like a hawk. What happens when Kirsten's and Walker's worlds collide?

Buy If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period

Notes from a Liar and Her Dog

Age Level: 9-12

For Antonia MacPherson, lying is a way of life. If it weren't for her best friend, Harrison, and a tiny ball of fluff named Pistachio, she would be miserable. Her older sister, Your Highness Elizabeth, says Ant is in training to be a juvenile delinquent, Harrison smells like a salami sandwich, and Pistachio should be put out of his misery. When a teacher takes Ant under her wing, Ant's way of life may have to change.

Buy Notes from a Liar and Her Dog