Great Illustrated Books

Al Capone Does My Shirts

By Gennifer Choldenko

Puffin, 2006
Pages : 240
Suggested Ages: 10 and Up
ISBN: 9780399238611

In 1935, when Moose Flanagan's father gets a job as electrician and guard at Alcatraz prison, the family moves to the twelve-acre rock island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, joining the other families and kids who live there, not to mention the prisoners, including gangster Al Capone. Moose may be only 12, but he's already 5' 11 1/2" tall. His older sister, Natalie has something terribly wrong with her. She's not stupid. If you tell her your birthday, she can tell you what day of the week you were born. She can multiply 487 times 6,421 in her head. But Natalie lives in her own world with what we now, many years later, recognize as severe autism. Their parents are planning to send her to a new residential school for kids with special problems, hoping at last they’ve found a place that can help her. Moose will be going to school in San Francisco with Piper, the warden's high-spirited troublemaking daughter. The tough-talking warden warns Moose, "Don't go shooting your mouth off about Al Capone." And he wouldn't, really. But Piper has a new scheme to try out on her classmates, and she ropes in Moose to help her. Wouldn't you pay Piper 5¢ to get one of your shirts laundered by Al Capone and the other famous cons in the Alcatraz prison laundry?

A glorious blend of comedy and drama, this utterly original Newbery Honor winner will get kids talking about peer pressure, autism, and, of course, Alcatraz and its famous inhabitants. Find out more about Alcatraz and its inmates at Looking up autism on the Internet can be daunting for children. since most of the information is aimed at adults. For an understandable explanation of autism (and other children’s health issues), children can visit and type “autism” in the Search Bar. According to the KidsHealth website, it is “the largest and most-visited site on the Web providing doctor-approved health information about children from before birth through adolescence. Created by The Nemours Foundation's Center for Children's Health Media, the award-winning KidsHealth provides families with accurate, up-to-date, and jargon-free health information they can use.”

Reviewed by : JF.


If you love this book, then try:

Choldenko, Gennifer. If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period. Harcourt, 2007. ISBN-13: 978-0152057534

Choldenko, Gennifer. Notes from a Liar and Her Dog. Putnam, 2001. ISBN-13: 978-0142500682

Conly, Jane Leslie. Crazy Lady! HarperCollins, 1993. ISBN-13: 978-0064405713

Curtis, Christopher Paul. Bud, Not Buddy. Delacorte, 1999. ISBN-13: 978-0553494105

Dodds, Bill. My Sister Annie. Boyds Mills, 1993. ISBN-13: 978-1563975547

Hesse, Karen. Out of the Dust. Scholastic, 1997. ISBN-13: 978-0590371254

Levine, Gail Carson. Dave at Night. HarperCollins, 1999. ISBN-13: 978-0064407472

Lisle, Janet Taylor. The Art of Keeping Cool. Atheneum, 2000. ISBN-13: 978-0689837883

Lisle, Janet Taylor. How I Became a Writer and Oggie Learned to Drive. Philomel, 2002. ISBN-13: 978-0142501672

Peck, Richard. A Long Way from Chicago. Dial, 1998. ISBN-13: 978-0142401101

Peck, Richard. A Year Down Yonder. Dial, 2000. ISBN-13: 978-0142300701

Shyer, Marlene Fanta. Welcome Home, Jellybean. Macmillan, 1978. ISBN-13: 978-0689712135

Slepian, Jan. Risk N' Roses. Philomel, 1990. ISBN-13: 978-0590453615

Critics have said

His timing is perfect, he voices all the characters with great versatility, and he makes Moose come to life. This is a fascinating book superbly narrated.
B. Allison Gray, School Library Journal

With its unique setting and well-developed characters, this warm, engaging coming-of-age story has plenty of appeal, and Choldenko offers some fascinating historical background on Alcatraz Island in an afterword.
Ed Sullivan, Booklist

This is an amusing book about interesting characters placed in a different and unlikely setting and trying to make the best of their situation.
Della A. Yannuzzi, Children

Choldenko, author of Notes From a Liar and Her Dog, offers a sensitive portrait of autism and how it affects a family, and in a author's note at the end she discusses her research about life on Alcatraz and on autism, and mentions that her own sister has autism. An affecting novel.
Paula Rohrlick, KLIATT