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Al Capone Does My Shirts Hardcover – March 30, 2004


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Grade Level: 4 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 600L (What's this?)
  • Series: Al Capone
  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (March 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399238611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399238611
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (368 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,290 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-8--In this appealing novel set in 1935, 12-year-old Moose Flanagan and his family move from Santa Monica to Alcatraz Island where his father gets a job as an electrician at the prison and his mother hopes to send his autistic older sister to a special school in San Francisco. When Natalie is rejected by the school, Moose is unable to play baseball because he must take care of her, and her unorthodox behavior sometimes lands him in hot water. He also comes to grief when he reluctantly goes along with a moneymaking scheme dreamed up by the warden's pretty but troublesome daughter. Family dilemmas are at the center of the story, but history and setting--including plenty of references to the prison's most infamous inmate, mob boss Al Capone--play an important part, too. The Flanagan family is believable in the way each member deals with Natalie and her difficulties, and Moose makes a sympathetic main character. The story, told with humor and skill, will fascinate readers with an interest in what it was like for the children of prison guards and other workers to actually grow up on Alcatraz Island.--Miranda Doyle, San Francisco Public Library
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 5-8. Twelve-year-old Moose moves to Alcatraz in 1935 so his father can work as a prison guard and his younger, autistic sister, Natalie, can attend a special school in San Francisco. It is a time when the federal prison is home to notorious criminals like gangster Al Capone. Depressed about having to leave his friends and winning baseball team behind, Moose finds little to be happy about on Alcatraz. He never sees his dad, who is always working; and Natalie's condition-- her tantrums and constant needs--demand all his mother's attention. Things look up for Moose when he befriends the irresistible Piper, the warden's daughter, who has a knack for getting Moose into embarrassing but harmless trouble. Helped by Piper, Moose eventually comes to terms with his new situation. 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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

How did a girl named Snot-Nose end up publishing children's books?

Here are the facts as I know them . . .

I am the youngest of four kids, all of whom have big mouths. We were so loud, that once a lady asked my brother if our mother was deaf.

She was not.

The only sibling who did not have the trademark Johnson big mouth was my sister, Gina, who had Autism. My parents worked very hard to try to figure out how to help Gina, but being the parent of a child with severe Autism is like riding a unicycle in an earthquake.

Since I was the youngest, I spent a lot of time by myself making up words, stories, songs and jokes (known as Gennifer Jokes) none of which made a lot of sense. Luckily, I kept most of these strange imaginings to myself.

After graduating from Brandeis University with a degree in English, I went to work writing advertising. I spent my days trying to convince people to take out a second mortgage or upgrade their printer or buy death and dismemberment insurance. I wrote copy for seven years until all of my words began to sound like the work of a big mouth twelve year old. At which point I went to Art School. With a second degree from Rhode Island School of Design I was supposed to get my portfolio together, but instead I wrote my first novel. (I do my best work when I'm supposed to be doing something else.) And that was the beginning. I have been a twelve year old for twenty years now. I have no plans to turn thirteen.

Customer Reviews

The characters are very well developed.
E. Richards
One of the best aspects of the book is the relationship between Moose and his autistic sister Natalie.
Georgina L. Sparks
This book is fun to read and I highly recommend it.
Tennis91

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

85 of 93 people found the following review helpful By D. Movahedpour on July 26, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I can hardly believe this is considered a children's book, since it is ideal for adults who can relate to their own coming-of-age experiences. Without going into excessive detail, Gennifer Choldenko manages to portray an era, adolescence and the pain of a disabled sibling in a different time with alarming accuracy.

Moose Flanagan is a 7th grader who is tall for his age. It is 1935, right in the midst of the Great Depression. Moose's father takes a job as a prison guard on Alcatraz Island. This means the whole family, including his mom and older sister, Natalie, have to live on the island, within the shadow of the prison, in an apartment building with the families of the other guards. Moose is not happy about leaving his home and friends in Santa Monica to take up residence next to a prison. The main reason for the move is so that his older sister, Natalie, can go to a special school in San Francisco. Natalie is considered different. In modern times, she would be diagnosed as Autistic, but in 1935, Autism had not been classified. Moose adjusts to life in a strange new place, stuck with the responsibility of looking after his sister, hardly seeing his parents, and getting to know the other children on the island, including the pretty and problematic Piper, the daughter of the Warden.

I read this book in one sitting. It is very well-written, and the author clearly hasn't forgotten what it is to be a child. She portrays being the responsible sibling to a handicapped sister excellently, and I cannot recommend this book enough.
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123 of 140 people found the following review helpful By E. R. Bird HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on December 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
There's historical fiction, and then there's historical fiction. Now to critique a kid's book that falls in the historical fiction genre there's really only one standard to which you should hold the book directly accountable: Do accurate historical facts about the story make the book more interesting or less interesting? Which is to say, does the story stand on its own two feet? Has this book taken true tales and given them new life or has it created an entirely fictional (some would say fanciful) world that bears little resemblance to what really did occur back in the day? I am pleased to report that Gennifer Choldenko's book, "Al Capone Does My Shirts" sits strongly in the former category. Taking true facts, following them up with historical research and footnotes, and giving the whole book a real but fascinating feel, Choldenko has written one of the great chidren's novels of 2004. The story is deeply interesting and continually gripping without boring the reader once. The premise is alluring but it's Choldenko's excellent writing that solidifies this puppy as a must-read for all ages.

Not many kids get to live on an island chock full of the world's most dangerous prisoners. But not many kids are Moose Flanagan. When his father takes a job as a guard on Alcatraz Island, just off the coast of San Francisco, Moose finds himself in alarmingly close proximity with a variety of different vicious criminals. The whole reason his father took the job, of course, is because of Moose's sister Natalie. A victim of autism, Natalie's condition isn't one that's easy to treat in 1935 America. The family has just discovered a wonderful school that might do Natalie some great good if they can only get her into it.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By J. Escobedo on December 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
My children received this book as a gift and I decided I should read it before my 9 year old took a shot at it.

I had no idea what to expect and started without even reading the back cover. From the first page I was hooked. The writing is very well done. Its deep and meaningful but not at all self-conscious or pretentious. It hits that superb level of competence when reading becomes effortless almost as if you are watching the story unfold in real life. Still it is very accessible to grade school readers and will be a great read aloud book.

The subject matter is great for kids. Its not santized but kid appropriate. The protagonist is a young teen boy and the author really pulls off telling the story from his point of view.

A special note needs to be made that this is indeed a story told from the perspective of the younger sibling of a developmentally disabled young woman whose family is learning to deal with what we would now label autism. I found myself asking "how did the author know?" as I moved through the pages lured on by the unfolding of a story I had lived but in a much less interesting time and place.

My sister is now 38 and I am 37. I think I will keep the gift copy for myself and buy two more copies, one for each of my children. When the time is right I hope this book will help them understand why my "older sister who is younger than me" has such a special place in my life and can get away with doing things they never can.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on May 31, 2006
Format: Hardcover
1. Describe how Moose's character changed during the story.

Moose changed slowly during the story. At first, Moose hated Alcatraz and he wanted to move back to Santa Monica. Also during the story, Moose started helping Natalie more and both of them were getting close and spending more time together.

2. Why do you think the author wrote this novel?

I think the author wrote this novel because she wanted to explain that not everyone is as lucky as us and that life has its ups and downs. I also think she wanted to talk about history and about how people were living before. Ex. the way they dressed, their different jobs, and most importantly, how they lived.

3. Would you recommend this book to your friends?

I would recommend this book to my friends because it talks about life then in an interesting way. It's also very exciting, and you feel like the book is stuck to your hands!
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