Al Capone Does My Shirts

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The novel Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko, showcases the power of family to triumph over adversity. Moose wants to protect his sister and stay out of trouble, but then his family moves to Alcatraz. His father becomes a prison guard and is never home, while his sister attends a special school in San Francisco. Moose is surrounded by opportunities for trouble: his mother’s worries about his sister’s autism, money issues, the warden’s daughter Piper, and the prisoners.

In the beginning, Moose wants to hide his sister from the world. He is wonderful about spending time with her and protecting her, but his parents take advantage of the fact that Moose always seems to know exactly how to calm Natalie. Moose loves his sister, and feels guilty that he sometimes resents the attention she demands from his parents. Moose had to leave his friends and his championship baseball team behind when they moved to Alcatraz, and he tries hard not to resent that.

By the middle of the book, the kids on Alcatraz have accepted Natalie but Moose is still trying to fit in. He desperately wants to impress Piper, the warden’s daughter, because she has the power to get his father fired and because she’s pretty. Adventure after adventure goes wrong as Moose follows Piper’s lead and ends up getting in trouble while she gets off without reprimand.

At the end, Moose realizes that his family is the most important thing in his life. He risks interacting with Al Capone, one of the forbidden prisoners, to ensure his sister’s admittance back into the San Francisco school once she is kicked out for being too old.

Throughout this book, humor plays an important part. Moose and Natalie have a relationship that is very funny for the reader, but quite tender between them. Their parents are busy with grown-up concerns, but Moose comes to realize they are doing the best they can, even though sometimes their actions are hard to explain.

39 thoughts on “Al Capone Does My Shirts”

  1. Submitted on 2012/05/09 at 6:42 pm

    From Julia:

    Al Capone is the type of book where it captivates you, willing you to never put the book down. Everything is captivating- the plot, characters, and even the setting. It left me turning page after exciting page. Although it was only one of the sixteen books in Novel Madness (instead of being in 8th, 7th, ect. place) it only did not win because it wasn’t very popular with the students, and was a class work assignment. Otherwise, if people read it on their free time, I am pretty sure it would have been close to winning.

    Moose, one of Al Capone’s main characters, is very easy to relate to. I am pretty sure you have either moved to a new place, and just wanted to go back to your real home, or someone or yourself has done something so embarrassing you wish everyone will go away. Unlike other books such as the Hunger Games, it is very realistic, which helps make it relatable. It’s not like you’re going to go into a huge arena and kill everything in there, you can’t relate to that.

    Al Capone has great details. You could feel what Moose was feeling. When he was embarrassed, I ended up blushing, too. Even when Moose feel, I felt some pain myself. It was almost like I stepped into his shoes, and left my own for a while. It was like I had all of his responsibilities, all of his feelings. Also, you could picture everything perfectly from the seagulls to the whole Alcatraz itself. It doesn’t have too many details, so it doesn’t get hard to comprehend.

    The best thing about the book would be the variety of characters. Al Capone has all sorts of characters, making the book very interesting to read. There are haughty characters and characters that have disabilities. The character that really gets the book moving would be Natalie. She has autism, and is the reason why Moose and his family are even in Alcatraz. Without her, there would be no book at all. She creates drama and action throughout the book.

    The only thing wrong with the Al Capone is that it will keep you from doing your work! Otherwise, it has great details, a great plot, and it is very easy to relate to!

  2. Submitted on 2012/05/09 at 11:49 am

    I like this book because it makes you think what’s going to happen next. Al Capone is a great book for all ages, and this can be a book that relates to your life

  3. Submitted on 2011/09/19 at 4:06 pm | In reply to Valerie.

    Actually Michelle, there IS going to be a third book ‘cuz that book is the second book to the trilogy so there should be a third book coming out

  4. Submitted on 2011/09/19 at 2:04 pm

    I feel really sorry for natalie it makes me feel really sad that she has autism. I feel sorry for all kids who have autism. 🙁 🙁

  5. Submitted on 2011/09/19 at 2:04 pm | In reply to Rheya.

    Thanks. I can’t wait to read it. I wonder what it will be about and if Natalie becomes like everyone else.

  6. Submitted on 2011/09/19 at 1:57 pm

    If I can find it 🙁
    Al Capone Does My Shirts is now one of my favorite books.

  7. Submitted on 2011/09/19 at 9:16 am

    I agree that family is the most important thing in life, because when you are feeling down or you need somebody to talk to you would go to your family first. The author explains Moose and Natalie’s talk to each other so well that I couldn’t believe it. Moose actually treated Natalie as a normal sister. The ending was by far the best part of the book, to me. It was so straight up and bold you just can’t imagine it. I would want to read this book again because it leaves you wondering if there is more to the book that you missed.

  8. Submitted on 2011/09/19 at 9:17 am

    Aye. Moose faces emotional troubles mostly due to Natalie and Piper. But Piper’s a B-word and thus not exactly easy to impress.
    If you like psychological books, this is one for you.

  9. Submitted on 2011/09/19 at 9:19 am

    I love the part of Al Capone Does My Shirts when Natalie gets lost and Moose finds her with the prisoner 105 also known as Onion 105, by the dock.

  10. Submitted on 2011/09/19 at 9:23 am | In reply to Catherine.

    yes i agree, when something is wrong you have to talk it out. Your family would be the best people to talk to because you known them so long.

  11. Submitted on 2011/09/19 at 9:31 am | In reply to Catherine.

    Have you tried Al Capone Shines My Shoes yet? I hope there is a sequel to that.

  12. Submitted on 2011/09/19 at 9:32 am

    This is a great book so far, it has very funny moments and some parts to question on. I love the part when Natilie gets naked and lays on the floor butt up because she was very hot. There are some parts that I would question on, like “Is every people with autisum good with numbers?”

  13. Submitted on 2011/09/19 at 9:37 am

    I completely agree with your thoughts that family is important, as they are one of the keys to MY happiness. I am sure many other students agree with me. Also, I think that Piper is a troublemaker, she is very spoiled and gossipy. I think that the part when Moose asked Capone for help was very interesting, as it made me nervous for Moose, about what Capone would do, would this even help Natalie, or would it make Moose in a more dangerous situation? I can relate to Moose a little bit, even though I have never moved from state to state or city to city. I can feel the anger, resentment, and hate Moose feels toward his family for moving to Alcatraz. Right now, I am reading Al Capone Shines My Shoes, which is the sequel to this book. This book has lots of climax, exactly like the first. I really suggest that you read this book too, as it helps you get a better understanding of the first book. 😀

  14. Submitted on 2011/09/19 at 9:37 am

    I agree that this book was a great book. I also agree that Moose’s parents are always trying their best to help Natalie. When reading this book I felt bad for Mrs. and Mr. Flanagan because they are stressed doing all this work for Natalie.

  15. Submitted on 2011/09/19 at 10:06 am

    I have sadly stopped reading this book. After a few chapters, the story stopped being fun to me. However I had read enough chapters to know that the Flanagans are kinda having a midlife crisis.

    1. Submitted on 2011/09/19 at 10:10 am | In reply to Hubert.

      Even so, Hubert, I think you should keep reading. It is still interesting and it WILL pick up. 🙂 However, this is not my decision, I can’t control you. I just recommend you to keep reading. However, if you abandoned it and you WON’T change your mind, then I guess you don’t have to keep reading.

    2. Submitted on 2011/09/19 at 10:15 am | In reply to Michelle.

      I agree, you should finish the book, Hubert.

  16. Submitted on 2011/09/19 at 1:54 pm

    OHHHHHH! This was a really good book. I loved the ending I am going to read the second one, too!

  17. The first part of the book did make me want to read more. I loved the way they are always on an adventure. I can feel the way Moose acts and they way he thinks BECAUSE i have the same feeling and I have been in that place of time before.

  18. I read the first part of the book and I loved it. I love the part where Moose gets surprised at how good Annie is at catching and throwing the baseball. I can’t wait till I read the next part.

  19. I like this book because it took place at Alcatraz. Also, it was kind of disturbing when Moose’s sister didn’t want to put the dress on so she layed on the floor naked. I’ve never read a book that had said something like that.

  20. Moose tries to treat his sister right after school but it is getting in the way of his baseball game. He tried to change the game to Tuesday but then his mother had to change her pianos lessons to Tuesday so now Scout is mad at Moose and he can’t play baseball because he has to take care of Natalie.

  21. This book is great for caring your sister and brother. Moose does everything to help his sister, even giving up on his favorite sport: baseball. Moose also wants to protect Nat from 105 as well! Moose loves and care his whole family member.

  22. I absolutely love this book. It’s easy to relate to even if you have never experienced Moose’s frustrations. I recommend the sequel, Al Capone Shines My Shoes, to anyone else who enjoyed the first book, too!

  23. This is an amazing book! The author describes Moose’s experiences so well, and it combines to make you laugh, cry, and smile. it is a must-read!

  24. I love the relationship of Natalie and Moose and how Moose tries his best to take care of Natalie. If you read this book, It’ll make you let out at least one tear from your eyes! 🙂

    1. I agree with you Kadin! I feel that the relation between Natalie and Moose is really strong, too. The fact that Moose stands up for his sister no matter what is just amazing and heart warming.

      1. I agree with jessica as well. I do anything to protect my sister even if she hates me, I still care for her. If she gets in trouble I would stand up for her and fight for her even if she still hates me.

  25. Ts such an emotional book. Moose is so protective of his sister. Even if she is annoying and hard to care for, Moose is always trying to help her. He knows that it is his responsibility to care for Natalie. He knows what is right for her and what is not. And he cares for her because she is his sister, not because he is forced by his mother. Moose tries everything to tighten their relationship. It is amazing that he is so persistent.

  26. Moose wants to do the best for his dad and his sister, but often gets in trouble with Piper instead. Piper is a very persuasive person. I think its this quality of hers that has gotten her through her life, and for her to change, it would be difficult.

  27. His sister is quite difficult, and Moose has his own battle with his conscience to make the right choices. He seems to both love and fear his sister and often does what she requests in fear of her tantrums and so she can be happy.

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