Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

I LOVED this book!

When twelve-year-old Moose Flanagan moves to Alcatraz Island in 1935 after his father gets a job as a prison guard and electrician, he  wonders if he’ll ever be happy there.  This historical fiction proves interesting on many levels, firstly families living at Alcatraz?  Kids taking the ferry to San Francisco to school each day?  Prisoners loading the ferry?  Al Capone’s mother’s visit makes an interesting story, most of it based on what really happened.

Moose loves baseball but life gets in the way of him joining the after school game.  His Dad is always working, him mum is preoccupied and he has to care for his  older sister Natalie after school.  Things get complicated when Natalie doesn’t get into the special school that offers hope of a future, money is tight, his Mum is working and  not coping very well and he misses his old life.

The other kids on the island offer respite and a few funny incidents as the story flows through the year.  Then Natalie has contact with a prisoner and can’t tell him what happened,

what if his parents find out he wasn’t watching her?  Will she ever be safe or get better?  The weight of the world is on his shoulders.  Yet this isn’t a sad depressing story; mainly due to the humorous, upbeat style of writing.   You know this boy will overcome his problems and although his dad is busy, he is a loving and supportive family man and although his Mum isn’t coping you clearly feel her resolve to get the best for her family (especially Natalie).

I have yet to be disappointed by a Newberrry Award winner and recommend this title highly for age 10+. This is not just a kids books, adults will get it on many more levels.  I am now going shopping for Gennifer’s other titles.


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