Book Review: Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko

It’s 1935 on Alcatraz Island. Al Capone is The Rock’s most famous prisoner among a number of notorious criminals. He’s also a constant fascination for the families of the guards, who live in houses on the island next door to the cellblock.

Moose Flanagan is the son of one of those guards. He’s adjusting to life without his autistic sister Natalie, who has just been accepted into the Esther P. Marinoff School, a place her parents believe will help her learn how to function better in society. Moose is sure Al Capone pulled strings to get Natalie in after Moose wrote a letter asking for his help. When Moose gets a note in his laundry, he knows Capone is asking for a favor back. But how can he fulfill the request without getting his dad fired and the whole family exiled off the island?

Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko is a charming follow-up to her Newbery Honor winner, Al Capone Does My Shirts. You’ll fall right back into Moose’s story and life on Alcatraz, with its strict regulations for prisoners, guards and civilians alike. This time Moose is trying to navigate his conflicted feelings for Piper, the warden’s daughter, and keep all his friends happy. He also has to determine where to draw the line with the cons who perform maintenance jobs in the homes: can he trust these men who for the most part seem like regular people, or should he keep their past crimes in mind when he interacts with them? I highly recommend this book for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 9 to 12.

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