Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Al Capone Does My Shirts - Gennifer Choldenko

Title: Al Capone Does My Shirts
Author: Gennifer Choldenko
Date Finished: June 29, 2008
Pages: 225
Rating: 4/5

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!


Jeane said...

This sounds very familiar, though I know I haven't read it. I must have heard about it somewhere before. I'm glad you reminded me of it, sounds interesting and I think I'll add it to my TBR.

Laura said...

When I was teaching, many of my students really enjoyed this one. Though I read several YA books at the time, I did not get around to this one. I have been wanting to read it ever since though. Maybe I'll borrow it for the next read-a-thon!

Bookfool said...

A friend recommended this book, so I snatched up a copy when I found it remaindered. For some reason, I couldn't get into it at the time, but you've encouraged me to give it a second try. Thanks!

Dewey said...

This sounds fun! I love YA fiction, so if you ever want some recommendations, just ask and I'll come up with some!

bethany said...

this looks like a great one, I will need to get it at the lib when I am there! thanks for the review.

Nymeth said...

When I first discovered YA books I was delighted to see how many serious topic the stories handled, and how well they handled them. Quite different from some of the books I read in my teens and pre-teens. I love new discoveries too :) And this sounds like a really good book.

Stephanie said...

I read and reviewed this book last year. I think I was like and surprised at the quality of this book. I don't know why I've had the impression that most YA books lack the quality of adult books.

Regardless, it was a fantastic read. I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Great review!

Joy said...

I read part of this book to a group of 6th graders and they were eating it up. I always wondered how it turned out. Hmmm, I may have to pick it up sometime. Thanks.

Trish said...

*Jeane - it was a fun read but also had a great "deeper" story to it as well. Hope you enjoy it!

*Laura - Oh, I thought you had read this one! Yes, it would make a great book for the next read-a-thon! Anytime you want to borrow a book--just let me know and I'll bring it up!

*Bookfool - Once I realized the "true" story of the book I was hooked--hope you like it!

*Dewey - I've been reading more and more YA fiction, I just can't believe that I've waited so long! I remember seeing a post of yours months back with suggestions that I bookmarked for my brother, but I'll have to revisit it.

*Bethany - It was perfect for the read-a-thon or a lazy weekend--hope you like it!

*Nymeth - The only books I can remember reading in my teens are RL Stine books (although I may have been younger...can't remember). But yes, I'm thrilled to see such rich YA fiction!

*Stephanie - I have that impression as well but I've been very pleasantly surprised with YA literature. I'll have to remember to come by and read your review.

*Joy - Ha ha! Well you have to know how the story ends!! I loved the ending of this one.

Corinne said...

My sister grabbed this one for me at a Scholastic Warehouse sale and I haven't tried it yet. You bumped it up my list :)

Trish said...

*Corinne - this one was a lot of fun to read--I hope you like it!