Friday, April 15, 2011

Al Capone does my shirts

Al Capone does my shirts
Author: Gennifer Choldenko
Publisher: New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, c2004.

Plot Description:
            Mathew “Moose” Flanagan and his family have just moved to San Francisco.  Well not San Francisco exactly but Alcatraz island, home of the worst of the worst of California’s criminals.  His father just got a new job as the islands electrician, and his mother hopes that moving to Alcatraz will help get his sister Natalie into a special school for kids like her who are a bit different.  Moose makes friends with the other kids on the island, including the warden’s daughter.  But when they start a scheme to make money from the other kids at school by having the prisoners wash their laundry they find themselves in trouble with the warden.  But this gives Moose the idea to ask one of Alcatraz’s most notorious criminals for help, that criminal was Al Capone.

            Much more than a book about a boy moving to Alcatraz, or even about the title character, this book is an interesting take on a family dealing with a little understood disease at the time.  Moose’s older sister has autism, and his mother especially wants desperately to find a cure for her.  Moose is the younger brother who is actually the older brother, the one who best knows how to deal with his sister and understands her the best.  He finds himself ignored by his family as their focus lies mainly on his sister. But overall this book is about family itself, and struggling with difficult choices and decisions to make the best of a difficult situation. 

Genre: Historical Fiction

Reading level: 4th Grade

Similar Books: Bud, Not Buddy

Reader’s Advisory:
Personal thoughts- Really good book, but especially helpful in helping children understand illness
Subjects/themes- Autism, Siblings, Moving, Criminals, Alcatraz
Awards- Newbery Honor Selection
Series information- There is a sequel called Al Capone Shines my Shoes
Character names/descriptions-
            Moose- loves baseball, but wishes things could be easier in his family
            Natalie- Moose’s 16 year old sister with autism, whose mother insists she is 10
            Piper- the warden’s scheming daughter
Annotation: Sure, asking a criminal for help might not be the best idea, but what if it’s the only one you’ve got?

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