I just finished reading Bootleg, a nonfiction story about America’s attempt to ban alcohol during the 1920’s. This book’s content kept me interested throughout because of the description of historical figures like Al Capone, Carrie Nation, and Morris Sheppard. Important events such as the Great Depression, the Civil War, and the 1929 Valentine’s Day Massacre are detailed in this book. This is a great read for middle school and high school students who love to learn about the history of the United States. This book is full of historical photographs, poems, posters, and illustrations outlining both sides of the alcohol issue, for and against.
At the beginning of Bootleg, you learn about Senator Morris Sheppard who as a young man introduced a constitutional amendment to ban alcohol, “an evil that will prove to be the source of the nation’s death”, in the United States. Readers will learn about how textbooks were introduced into schools to warn children of the dangers of consuming alcohol.
Carrie Nation, a proponent of the ban on alcohol, took matters into her own hands by destroying saloons and wreaking havoc across Kansas. On one occasion, Nation destroyed three saloons in one morning. Nation herself referred to her campaign against alcohol as her “hatchetation”. She even sold small hatchet pins to support her effort. Readers will learn much about the strong-hearted, brave woman known as Carrie Nation.
Al “Scarface” Capone, an infamous bootlegger, has a whole chapter devoted to his crimes and money-making schemes. In the chapter about Capone, you even learn that his oldest brother, Richard “Two-Gun” Hart, served as a federal agent who raided stills and illegal breweries.
Readers will learn that the prohibition act to the Constitution outlawing alcohol took effect on January 1920 and lasted until it was overturned in December 1933. However, most people who wanted to consume alcohol found a way around it either by bootlegging or bribing officials of the government. Some interesting vocabulary words in this book include blind tiger or blind pig, real McCoy, speakeasy, and teetotaler.
LANGUAGE
There was no offensive language, only the mention of alcohol throughout the book.
VIOLENCE
Description of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is included but it is not graphic in nature.

SEXUAL CONTENT
No sexual content in this book.
SUPERNATURAL ELEMENTS
None
WHAT TO DISCUSS
Bootleg is a historical non-fiction book. What other non-fiction books are good reads? (Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown, In Defiance of Hitler: The Secret Mission of Varian Fry)
Was prohibition a good idea or not?
How did politics and the events in the 1920’s lead to prohibition?

Review by John McClellan (Middle school teacher and father of three boys)

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