Every summer our library gives out free books to middle school students sometimes called tweens. They are award winners and on the summer reading list. I observe what the kids pick from the selection offered and like to listen to their reasons for selections. One book that is chosen often is called Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko. I wondered how kids even know who Al Capone was and why would they want to read about him? Since I never read this book I was eager to read it and share it here.
It is the story of an eleven year old boy named Moose who has recently moved to Alcatraz island with his family. His father is an electrician and guard at the prison where the famous Al Capone does laundry for the families who live and work on the island.
Moose has an older 15 year old sister Natalie who has autism, but at that time it was not know as that condition. There was very little help or understanding during the 1930’s which is the time the story is set. Moose has to help his sister and keep her with him because their mother feels he can help her. This is way too much responsibility for Moose, but he is a loving brother who tries his best. The family is working toward helping Natalie get into a special school on the mainland. That is why his father works two job and the mother gives piano lessons when Moose gets home from school.
Moose is resentful that his family had to leave San Francisco and live on Alcatraz. The Warden makes it clear that talk about the inmates like Capone is not allowed. Piper the Warden’s daughter is always annoying Moose and has ideas that ultimately cause trouble for Moose. It is a wonderful story about a boy who just wants to be a boy that loves baseball, but the complications of family and life make him grow up faster.