Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko: Book Ramblings

Al Capone Shines My ShoesAl Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I listened to the audio version of this book. The narrator also did Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother so it took me awhile to pull myself back into the 1930s.

This is a well done historical fiction book about a boy named Moose and his family living on Alcatraz, where his dad works as one of the guards in 1935. Moose begins finding notes in his laundry, notes he believes are coming from Al Capone. The first note says Done. It comes about the same time as Moose’s family discovers his sister Natalie can once again go to the Esther P. Marinoff school. His mom hopes the school will help make Natalie better. Moose believes Capone had a hand in getting her in. When the second note comes in the laundry, one that says Your Turn, Moose starts worrying what he’ll have to do in return for the favor.

Natalie has something that might be diagnoses as autism today, but that label did not exist yet in 1935. She has trouble communicating, dislikes being touched and gets ‘stuck’ focusing on different things. Moose is very protective of her and has helped a lot with her. When she goes off to school, Moose finds himself at a loss as his mom starts focusing more on him. He likes the attention, but he feels guilty about it as well. There are those on the island, like Officer Darby, who don’t like or understand Natalie at all.

Moose’s life gets turned upside down in this book. All his friendships are challenged and strained. The girl he has a crush on, the warden’s daughter, is hot tempered. She wields power in a pique, getting Moose’s dad and his best friend’s dad put on probation with accusations of drinking on duty when Moose got to see the inside of the prison and Al Capone (because he ran a choking baby up to the doctor). He’s wrapped up in event after event he feels he can’t tell the adults about safely without getting his parents or Natalie in trouble. He even has to find a way to sneak roses to Al Capone’s wife when she visits.

I enjoyed the dynamics behind the different characters and their motivations. Everything is not as it seems at first glance on the island.

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