Al Capone Does My Shirts

by Gennifer Choldenko

Ages: 10 years and up (approximately grades 4 and up)

Moose Flanagan is your average, every-day, big-for-his-age ten-year-old growing up in the mid-1930’s when his dad accepts a job as the new prison guard and electrician at the roughest place known to civilians and criminals alike: Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. Moose takes his family’s move hard when he is forced to give up his old friends, his baseball team, and share an island home with the nastiest, most scheming criminals of the day, including none other than the infamous Al Capone (who hails from right here in Chicago, Illinois!). Worse yet is when Moose’s older sister, Natalie –who acts like a younger sister due to her severe autism- is rejected from the special school the Flanagans hoped to send her to in San Francisco, saddling Moose with the task of watching over Natalie while his parents work. Unable to make friends off the island, Moose befriends the other guards’ kids, including the warden’s daughter, Piper, who may take more after the crafty Al Capone than her stand up, law abiding warden of a father. Can Moose find the time away from his sister to return to playing his beloved game of baseball without hurting his friendships with the kids on Alcatraz island? Will Piper ever learn that her conniving ways are more trouble than they’re worth? Could Natalie end up getting into her special school with a little help from Al Capone himself? Find out in Al Capone Does My Shirts, as well as the two sequels that more than live up to their predecessor, Al Capone Shines My Shoes, and Al Capone Does My Homework.


This 2005 Newbery Honor book tackles the themes of childhood, morality, mental health, and history in a way that is pleasing and palatable to its target audience. Included in this volume is an extensive and interesting author’s note where Choldenko outlines her in-depth research not only on the lives of those who lived on Alcatraz in the 1930’s, but also explaining the struggles of Natalie’s character and how she is based off Choldenko’s own autistic sister. While somehow keeping the historical and autistic realities in check throughout the story, Al Capone Does My Shirt also lightheartedly delves into the depths of childhood crushes, friendships, school life, and know-it-all adults. Moose’s character is not only big for his age, but mature, with a smattering of sarcasm and in-your-face humor despite the challenges he, his friends, and his sister get themselves into. Children ages ten and up will enjoy this book, especially if they enjoy historical fiction, friendship-based shenanigans and humor, or have a soft spot for those who are a little bit different.

Find Al Capone Does My Shirts, and the rest of the Al Capone on Alcatraz series, in the catalog.

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