Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko 


Al Capone Does My Shirts
by Gennifer Choldenko
Pages: 225
Today I moved to a twelve-acre rock covered with cement, topped with bird turd and surrounded by water. I’m not the only kid who lives here. There’s my sister, Natalie, except she doesn’t count. And there are twenty-three other kids who live on the island because their dads work as guards or cook’s or doctors or electricians for the prison, like my dad does. Plus, there are a ton of murderers, rapists, hit men, con men, stickup men, embezzlers, connivers, burglars, kidnappers and maybe even an innocent man or two, though I doubt it. The convicts we have are the kind other prisons don’t want. I never knew prisons could be picky, but I guess they can. You get to Alcatraz by being the worst of the worst. Unless you’re me. I came here because my mother said I had to.
As a teacher, I can get away with reading Young Adult books and even children’s books without being a loser. I LOVE children’s literature. I try to balance adult and children’s lit as I read, but I keep finding myself pulled toward children’s lit.
This book was a fun, quick read. Set on Alcatraz, this novel brings in the history of the island, in an amusing and accessible way to readers. The main character is a 13 year old boy named “Moose.” He has a sister who is “different.” We find out that she has autism. During his time, autism had not been recognized as a disease, so sufferers of autism were subjected to all sorts of torturous remedies. Moose and his sister, Natalie, are finding a way to cope with being different from the other children on Alcatraz. The novel is filled with several hair-brained schemes aimed at getting in contact with Al Capone. Leave it to Moose to finally figure out how to do it.
I can’t say more without spoiling the book. If historical fiction is a genre you enjoy, and you want a fast, easy read, go for this book. You’ll find yourself giggling at times as well as feeling sorry for the character’s bad situation.