Title: Al Capone Does My Shirts
Author: Gennifer Choldenko
Length: 217 pages
Banter Points: This book was a 2005 Newberry honor book, which is well-deserved. The story follows Matthew "Moose" Flanagan and his sister, Natalie, as they move to Alcatraz in 1935 when their father takes a job as a guard and electrician on the infamous island prison. Moose struggles to make friends with other kids in his school and other kids on Alcatraz, but has no trouble making an enemy in Piper, the daughter of the warden. Moose also struggles with the responsibility of watching Natalie, his older autistic sister. The characters are crisp. The history, while not 100-percent spot on, is close enough to give a definite sense of location and time. The book is also written in present tense which gives the action an immediacy and urgency. Themes of freedom and captivity pervade but are woven seamlessly into the plot so as not to bludgeon the reader.
Bummer Points: It's almost a shame that this is a so-called juvenile book. It's also may be a shame that the title has "Al Capone" in it because some might think it's a crime novel, when it's nothing of the sort.
Word Nerd recommendation: Read it, read it, read it.