Al Capone Does My ShirtsTitle: Al Capone Does My Shirts
Author: Gennifer Choldenko
Pages: 228 pages
Publisher/Date: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, c2004.

“Today I moved into a twelve-acre rock covered with cement, topped with bird turd and surrounded by water. Alcatraz sits smack in the middle of the bay–so close to the city of San Francisco, I can hear them call the score on a baseball game on Marina Green. Okay, not that close. But still.” (3)

Twelve-year-old Moose Flanagan and his autistic older sister Natalie have just moved to Alcatraz, where his father is working two jobs. His life is as normal as life could be while living amongst some of the most nortorius criminals ever. But Piper Williams, the daughter of the warden, is set on making trouble and blaming other people. And Natalie’s chances at getting the help she needs are becoming slim, forcing Moose to look after her and make sure she has some interaction with “people her own age.” All Moose wants to do though is play baseball after school.

Children of Alcatraz

This Newbery Honor book casts light on the little known life of kids on Alcatraz. I personally didn’t realize that kids lived on Alcatraz, and Gennifer Choldenko does an excellent job seperating fact from fiction in the afterword following the novel. There is a book at our library, Children of Alcatraz: Growing up on the Rock by Claire Rudolf Murphy, which would make an excellent companion book for children looking for more information.

There is one scene that parents might object to where Moose’s sister takes off all her clothes in a fitful rage and refuses to wear the suggested dress. With his parents away, Moose is left to clothe the screaming sister. The situation is presented well however, and I personally had no objections to how Moose or the author handles it. It definitely demonstrates to readers how difficult Moose’s job is to control Natalie, and how much his parents rely on him, regardless of his age and attempts at being a normal kid. Highly recommended for middle schoolers and some upper elementary who are looking for unusual stories.