Al Capone Does My Shirts

Monday, July 28, 2008

Al Capone Does My Shirts
Gennifer Choldenko
5/5 Stars

Moose Flanagan has just moved to Alcatraz. His father has gotten a job as an electrician at the most notorious prison in the United States. You would think Moose would be excited, but he isn’t. Instead, Moose must watch over his autistic sister, Natalie, while trying to avoid the warden’s scheming daughter, Piper.

Moose’s problems multiply when he catches Natalie holding hands with Prisoner 105. Is Natalie safe on the island? Who is Prisoner 105? Moose enlists the help of the notorious Al Capone in an attempt to keep Natalie in school and off the island.

This is one of the best examples of juvenile fiction I have read in a long time. I am always on the lookout for books that will catch the attention of ‘reluctant readers,’ and this book does just that. The character of Moose is a typical preteen boy – his feelings for his family conflict with his own growing interests. He must choose what is important to him – baseball or Natalie. Ultimately, he make the wise decision and cares for the sister he loves.

Although fiction, the novel has a basis in reality – guards and their families did live on Alcatraz Island, Al Capone did work in the prison laundry, and civilians did interact with some prisoners. Choldenko has included this and other information in the ‘Author’s Note’ at the end of the book. This section sheds some light on ‘life on the rock’ and is a great link between the historical information and the novel itself.

This novel will capture your child’s imagination. I highly recommend it.