Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Al Capone Does My Shirts

Al Capone Does My Shirts. Gennifer Choldenko. 2004. 225 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Today I moved to 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.

Premise/plot: Moose Flanagan, our narrator, has just moved with his family to Alcatraz. His father is an electrician and part-time prison guard. The year is 1935, and there is a certain trendiness or "coolness" about big crime bosses. Al Capone is the most famous resident at the time. Other kids from the island--notably Piper--try to cash in on the situation.

As for Moose, he's more concerned about his sister, Natalie, and BASEBALL. Natalie IS a concern for the whole family because she's autistic at a time when no one knew what it was and everyone was clueless as to how to best help. Moose's mother spends 98% of her time deep in worry about Natalie. There is nothing she won't try in an effort to fix her daughter. Moose's father spends his time working, working, working trying to support the family. Moose has a complex relationship with Natalie. His big sister has become his litter sister. And instead of her watching over him, her bossing him around, he is the one who is on Natalie duty when he's not at school. He hates that this responsibility seems to be falling completely on him. (His mother has started working too.) His island friends seem to be okay with Natalie tagging along--most of the time. On a few occasions, they are even more patient with her than Moose. But it's a huge responsibility and one that he cannot manage on his own.

Baseball. Moose is a kid at heart. He loves, loves, loves playing--and playing baseball tops his list. He would love nothing more than to be involved in a good baseball game a couple of times a week. His dream friends may all be boys his own age, boys equally obsessed with baseball. But his actual friends that he makes on the island--the children of those who work for the prison--turn out to be good friends indeed.

My thoughts: Al Capone Does My Shirts is a great read. It is a perfect blend of light and dark. It can be laugh out loud funny. But it can also be intense and serious. I love, love, love the characters. I do. I can't believe it took me nine years to reread this one. I'm hoping to reread the whole series this year because there is a new book!


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