A while ago, someone asked me if I had read the “Al Capone” series for kids. I hadn’t and she said I should check them out as they were good. A few weeks ago we were at the library doing homework and my daughter saw “Al Capone Does My Shirts”. We took it out and I ended up stealing it from her. I then read the next book in the series, “Al Capone Shines my Shoes”, and I plan to read the third, “Al Capone Does My Homework”.
In these books, it is the mid-1930’s, and Matthew “Moose” Flanagan and his family live on the island of Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay where the notorious gangster Al Capone is doing his time. Moose’s dad works as an electrician on the island. Moose befriends the other children whose fathers work as jailers, wardens, plumbers, and the like. Moose has an older sister, Natalie, who has some developmental delays and differences (similar to autism). Part of this book is Moose’s adventures with the other kids, the scrapes they get into, the prisoners they try to interact with, and their every day life at home and school. The other part of the novel is the relationships between Moose and the others, and especially with his sister. The character of Natalie and her interactions with Moose and their parents are so sensitively and touchingly portrayed that at one point they brought tears to my eyes. (Gennifer Choldenko writes in the author’s notes that she had a sister with developmental differences and Natalie is in part based on her).
I just loved these books! I think middle grade and middle school readers would enjoy them, both boys and girls. They are fun and exciting, yet realistic and sensitive. The characters are so true to life, I think, because they are basically portrayed with their flaws and weaknesses showing. I have recommended them for our school library.