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Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Fiction for grades 5-8

It’s 1935 when 14-year-old Moose and his family move to Alcatraz Island. His father hopes he can make enough money there as a prison guard and electrician to send Moose’s sister, severely autistic Natalie, to a special school that is suppose to help kids like Natalie lead a normal life. Moose is not happy about leaving his friends in Santa Monica. Things get worse when Natalie’s deemed “not ready” for her school and a specialist recommends Natalie hanging out with Moose to normalize her. Meanwhile Moose tries to find himself friends in the small guard community of Alcatraz, avoid trouble from the warden and his troublesome but good looking daughter, and deal with a mother whose happiness hangs on saving Natalie and all but ignores Moose.

The Alcatraz setting made this book interesting and Moose’s interactions with Natalie are compelling. As an adult I enjoyed the story, but I did wonder what an elementary school boy would think. The book title and setting make hints that this is an exciting plot based novel when really it’s more of a sweet character based novel from a male perspective in an interesting setting.