“”Number four: Do not speak to any outsiders about what goes on here. Don’t go shooting your mouth off about Al Capone. You say his name and hordes of reporters come crawling out of the woodwork ready to write stories full of foolish lies, dangerous lies. Know anything about Capone, Mr. Flanagan?””
Twelve-year-old Moose Flanagan is far from thrilled when his family moves to Alcatraz Island. His father is always asked to work extra hours as a prison guard, he misses his old life, and and his autistic sister, Natalie, is not adjusting well to her new surroundings. It is 1935, and not many people understand autism yet; Moose’s parents are at their wits’ end as they try to find a place to help Natalie that isn’t an institution. Moose isn’t happy about the fact that he’s living near a huge prison full of the world’s most dangerous criminals, even if his situation could make him popular at school. He’d rather play baseball and live a normal life.
Meanwhile, Moose has junior high to contend with. His classmates are just dying to know what it’s like to live so close to Al Capone, but Moose is more interested in making friends than in making up stories about a gangster he’s never met. Just as he thinks he is beginning to lead a more normal existence (which includes finding a group of kids to play baseball with), the Warden’s daughter, Piper, starts to make trouble. Will Moose get sucked into her schemes?
Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko, is a funny, exciting, and poignant story. The writing drew me in immediately and immersed me completely: it’s no wonder that it was a Newbery Honor book in 2005. Moose’s voice carries you along from the first line to the last, and leaves you wondering what he’ll do next (which is why it’s wonderful that there is a sequel, Al Capone Shines My Shoes). The characters are endearing and easy to relate to (even mischievous and manipulative Piper), and you’ll probably care quite a bit about them by the time the book ends.
This book is a real gem, not to mention a current Lynn favourite. Don’t take my word for it; check it out yourself!