Title: Al Capone Does My Shirts
Author: Gennifer Choldenko
Date Finished: June 29, 2008
I picked this book up at a sale a few weeks ago with my brother in mind (he just turned 12), and in the wee hours of the morning during the read-a-thon it was the perfect book to indulge in.
Moose is a pretty ordinary kid--he is 12, loves to play baseball, is pestered by a girl Piper, and tries to fit in with the cool crowd at school. Moose, however, lives on Alcatraz--the prison that houses such criminals as Al Capone and Machine Gun Kelly. It is 1935 and his family has just moved from Santa Monica to Alcatraz where his dad is a guard.
Al Capone Does My Shirts is the story of Moose as he tries to fit in at his new school, tries to avoid Piper's schemes to get the other school kids to pay for cons to launder their clothes, and spends his free time searching for a baseball hit over the fence by the prisoners who have their own ball league. Moose's life comes to a halt, however, when he is put in charge of tending to his sister, Natalie, who is a little different from the other kids. In fact, his family moved to Alcatraz so that Natalie could attend a special school--one that her parents are having trouble enrolling her in.
This book was a lot of fun to read--imagining what life would be living on Alcatraz next-door to the prisoners, seeing Moose handle his first few days at his new school, and the interaction between all of the different kids. But it was also a touching story of a young boy's struggle to come to terms with his sister's condition (she is autisitc although that isn't specifically mentioned in the novel until the appendix since autism wasn't identified during the time period of the book). While Moose doesn't always understand his sister and they fight, he is tender with her and loves her and deep down has her best interests in mind--sometimes he seems to be the only one.
I haven't read a whole lot of young adult fiction in the past (well, since I was a young adult anyway) and I'm always surprised at how much I enjoy the stories. They aren't superficial like I might have once thought--the themes are ones of humanity and this story was no different. Plus, as a bonus, it is a fun and delightful read. I love new discoveries!