Caroline Davis

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

In Books on March 22, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Summary: Matthew “Moose” Flanagan is reluctant to move away from Santa Monica with his family – especially to Alcatraz, the prison island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, where his father has just been hired as a guard and electrician.  But his sister, Natalie, is different and needs to go to a special school, and his father needs the work in order to afford it.  Moose and the other kids who live on Alcatraz are treated with respect at school, because just living in proximity to some of the most famous gangsters, like Al Capone, gives them some infamy.  And the warden’s daughter, Piper, keeps coming up with schemes to make the most of it.

Highlights: If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to live on Alcatraz – but not as an inmate – Moose Flanagan’s story about his life there in 1935 is a great introduction to the history of the island.  Choldenko’s novel is well-researched and contains many accurate details, which are explained in the footnote-friendly “Author’s Note” at the end.  The novel is also a great depiction of living with a family member with special needs – Moose’s sister Natalie is based on the author’s experience growing up with a severely autistic sibling – as Moose and his parents live with all the hopes and frustrations it involves.  And Piper is a great character, a cute troublemaker that Moose both deeply dislikes…and likes.  A Newbery Honor selection.


Gennifer Choldenko’s Official Website

Interview with Gennifer Choldenko (Mother Daughter Book Club)

Interview with Gennifer Choldenko (Peters Bookselling Services)

Other Reviews:

@ The Novel World

@ One Librarian’s Book Reviews

@ BookMoot

@ Young Adult Literature Review

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