|Al Capone Does My Shirts
By: Gennifer Choldenko
Gennifer Chaledenko wrote Al Capone Does My Shirts and published the book in 2004 by G.P Putnam’s and Son’s. This book was not one of my favorite books but it did have some interesting characters that kept my attention.
The setting of this book is on the Island of Alcatrez. I did not know much about Alcatrez before reading this book. I did learn that Alcatrez is an Island off the coast of the San Francisco Bay. It is about 1.5 miles from the coast. If you lived on Alcatrez you felt like you were living on a rock because there was no place to go. In the book, the families of the people that lived in Alcatrez lived on the Island. They lived in apartments so that their parents who worked as guard would be available quickly if there was an break out from the prision.
The are many characters in the story. Moose Flanagan is the main character or protagonist of the story. He had to move to Alcatrez and leave all of his friends in San Franciso on account of his sister Natalie. Natalie has autism and her parents needed to earn more money to send her to a special school called the Esther P. Marinoff School. The problem is that Natalie is too involved to go to Esther P. Marinoff and she has to stay on the island and get special help from Mrs. Kelly. Mrs. Kelly is expensive so Mrs. Flanagan, Moose’s mother has to go back to work. Moose then has to babysit for his sister. Moose is mad because he would rather be playing baseball than watching his kid sister. Natalie is quirky and doesn’t always do the things that other kids do. She likes to count and is real good with numbers but she has fits at times and never looks anyone in the eye. I sometimes see the antagonist of the story being Natalie trying to get into the Esther P. Marinoff. She tries to get in twice and doesn’t make. Also Piper, the warden’s daughter is always trying to set up a scheme that could get Moose in trouble. Moose likes to play by the rules.
If I had to think of 5 things that best described the plot they would be. Moose having to give up his free time to watch his sister. Moose also wants to have the friendship of Scout. Scout is his buddy at school but Scout thinks he is a loser because he can’t play baseball after school. Moose tries to win Scout over by looking for a prized “Con” baseball that fly over the fence on Alcatrez. Moose also learns that he is good at watching his sister even when she has quirky fits. He takes his sister along when they go bowling , the parade grounds or just looking for a ball. The conflict is that she can’t be left alone very often like normal kids. When he does leave her he finds her with Onion (105). He then worries that Onion may have taken advantage of her.
The mood of the story is one of compassion. Moose really cares about his sister and his family. He doesn’t want the other kids on the island treating her unfairly. Natalie becomes part of the group of kids and hangs out with them. Moose takes her to look for baseballs and bowling. Even Piper the warden’s daughter ends up liking Natalie even though she thought that she was retarded at first. Theresa a little 7 year old on the island is like a pit bull and looks out for Natalie.
If I think of 2 literary devices that explain this book . I thought that when Moose’s Dad came home and found that Natalie had a fit. Moose’s Dad offered him a beer. I thought that this showed symbolism with this offer. Moose was taking on adult responsibilities so he should be treated like an adult and drink a beer. Natalie’s buttons are also a symobic of her being locked in her own little world. I think she likes to play with the buttons as a way of calming down, kinda like playing baseball is for Moose.
Irony is another literary example used in the book. Al Capone one of the inmates killed people but he does good things too. He may be a murderer but he also opened the first soup kitchen to feed the homeless. Moose writes Al Capone a letter to see if he can use his influence in the underground world to help Natalie. At the end of the story Natalie is excepted into the Esther P. Marinoff. Moose gets a little note back in the sleeve of his shirt with the word “done” on it. The irony is that bad people can still do good for others.
This was not my favorite book to read. I usually hate historical fiction. I like the parts about the Alcatrez and I may read more about that later. I got tired of the story line because it moved kinda slow for me. I usually like to read science fiction. The good part of this book is that I learned about Al Capone a bit and I may read a book about him later for a book report.