Book House, £11.99, ISBN 978-1-906714-19-2
Avoid Being a 1920’s Gangster! is part of the series called The Danger Zone, which attempts to get kids hooked on history, geography, and other subjects by promising them that the subject matter is horrible, gruesome, and thus stupendously cool. I don’t know if I’ve said this before, but I wish I had this kind of things when I was in school. It’s fun to feel young at heart – well, younger at heart – by reading these books.
As the title would suggest, this one focuses on life of the lawless sort in America during the 1920’s, when the Prohibition was in place and everyone assumes that men in those days all wear fedoras, trench coats, and suits with vertical lines on them while the women wouldn’t leave the house without a fur coat. This one is a hybrid of fiction and nonfiction, however. It tells the story of “you” – a guy down on your luck – and your twin brother Tony who have problems making ends meet. Tony ends up being a cop, while you go undercover to infiltrate a gang and relay information to Tony. Life as a gangster in that era is narrated through your experiences while undercover.
This book is aimed at very young kids, so don’t expect any sordid details on violence and sex. Instead, this book offers a simplified, sanitized picture that makes being a gangster in that time almost comparable to being an office boy, heh. Still, it would probably be a fun read for those young kids. Even I learn something while reading this book – the differences between America and Canada back in those days when it comes to dealing with alcohol and stuff are quite interesting. However, this book doesn’t go into too much detail, which makes it more of a perfectly reasonable quick read when one is on the bus or something.
What I do wish this book has is more historical information about gangsters back in those days. I’m not too worked up over this lack, as I know this book is aimed at kids of a certain age bracket. I guess I’m just saying that I wish there is a version for older kids. Something with more history and grit. Avoid Being a 1920’s Gangster is very obviously a book for young kids, and while I think Mark Bergin’s illustrations are gorgeous and I’ve had an amusing time reading this book, it ends up being too superficial and… well, young for me. Sigh, do I feel old or what?