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Al Capone Shines My Shoes

This is a student review of one of my favorite books to teach.                                     

Book Review by Kayla

The book Al Capone Shines My Shoes, by Gennifer Choldenko, tells about what happens after Moose asks the notorious criminal Al Capone to help Natalie get admitted into a special school. Now, in return, Capone wants something back from Moose.

Many of the characters in this book are easy to relate to. Moose is always trying to do what’s right, but he still constantly gets in trouble. He does all he can to prevent his dad from being fired. The warden’s daughter, Piper, is afraid no one will pay attention to her once her new sibling is born. If you have brothers or sisters, you might know how scary this fear is, especially since Piper had been an only child for nearly twelve years. I think that parts of her mean behavior might have to do with the fact that she has so much going on at home.

A lot of Al Capone Shines My Shoes has to do with family. When Moose visits Natalie at her new school, she says that she misses him. Moose can’t believe it, and he thinks she is just repeating something his mom said, but I know that Natalie meant what she said. Moose may not know it, but there’s this part deep down inside of Natalie that loves him. And that is what family is about: loving each other. You may not know it, and you may not love them all the time, but in the end you’ll always be family.

Throughout the book, Moose struggles to maintain his friendships. He’s one of the most well-meaning kids you’ll ever meet, but he quickly finds out that you can’t please everybody all the time. His best friend, Jimmy, is starting to suspect that Moose’s praise of his less-than-stellar baseball skills may not be completely genuine. Annie (who may want to be more than just Moose’s friend) is almost always mad because she thinks that his friendship could be based solely on her outstanding pitching arm. And even Moose himself has started to believe that introducing his best mainland friend, Scout, to Piper might have sabotaged his own chances at romance with the cute but increasingly moody girl.

Moose is also experiencing conflicting feelings since, thanks to the influence of convicted mobster Al Capone, a prisoner on Alcatraz, his older sister Natalie has been admitted to a special school for kids with autism. He misses his sister, but he also welcomes the freedom he gains by not having to watch or worry about her all the time. Now he can see firsthand how easygoing his mother is when she’s not saddled with her own worries about Natalie. But when Al Capone calls in a favor from Moose in return for Natalie’s placement at the school, his life is about to go from complicated to downright dangerous as he finds himself at the center of an elaborate escape plot. Is Al Capone a kind, well-meaning inmate or a dangerous schemer? Moose is discovering that with convicts, as well as with friends and family, things are not always as simple as they seem.

I would recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of the first book, Al Capone Does My Shirts, loves historical fiction, and anyone who has ever felt that they didn’t know what was the right thing to do. This great book kept me guessing until the very end. All in all, Al Capone Shines My Shoes is an amazing read for everyone, adults and children alike.

Kayla is a sixth grade student. Thanks, Kayla!

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