Saturday, April 25, 2009

Review: Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

genre: young adult
rating: 4/5

In 1935, Moose moves to the island prison of Alcatraz, along with his mother and his older sister. His father is already there, waiting for them - he's gotten a new job as electrician and guard at the prison. The small "non-prisoner" community has few children, so Moose is forced to play with whoever is available and there are all kinds of new rules he's forced to learn and follow.

Moose's story, told in diary format, is not just about himself living in an incredibly unique place, but also about his sister, Natalie. Nowadays, Natalie would be diagnosed with autism, but during the 30s, she was just weird and different and terribly challenging. Moose loves Natalie, though, and so much of the book is his interactions with her and the rest of his family, how they cope with having a sister with such stressful needs.

The time and place feels very authentic and the fact that it takes place on Alcatraz is just, well, cool. The author really did her research about the time period when Al Capone was there and I loved the interplay with Moose, his love of baseball, his family and the island itself. As a reader, though, sometimes I felt like the author left me hanging. A diary entry would end and the next one would begin and something important happened in between that we just have to assume went well.

That being said, I'd highly recommend this book for preteens/early teens, especially those who know or are related to someone with a disability. You not only get a sense for how far our society has come in accepting and providing for those with disabilities, but also, Moose is just a regular boy. He likes regular things, he makes choices and has to take the consequences and having an older sister who is obsessed with buttons and throws massive tantrums is just a part of life. All while living on an island full of the nation's worst criminals. Again, cool.


Jenni said...

Okay well I might just have to read this one because the author has my name spelled with a G!!:)Really though it sounds intriguing - you read such cool books Corinne!

bermudaonion said...

I'm way past my teen-age years but that sounds like a book I'd like. I just love the title!

Fyrefly said...

I've heard a lot about this one, and in fact it's already on my TBR pile... sounds like I should bump it up to the top, huh? Great review!

Trish said...

I read this one about a year ago and recently passed it on to my brother (he's 12). I think he's enjoying it, but he's still trying to figure out whether or not reading is fun. :)

Jena said...

We read this out loud at the Mid-Ohio Writers Project a few years ago, but we didn't quite get to finish it, and somehow I just haven't gotten around to finishing it on my own. Thanks for the reminder--it was really, really funny as I recall.

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