Al Capone Shines My Shoes, by Gennifer
Choldenko; Penguin Young Readers Group:
New York, 2011; $6.99
Though I am fascinated with American history, including Alcatraz, I was drawn to the book Al Capone Shines My Shoes, by Gennifer Choldenko, for different reasons. The main character’s name is Moose, a nickname that I have been called for years. He has an autistic sister. After reading a review in Stone Soup by Richard Ma [May/June 2013] about Temple Grandin, a world-famous animal rights advocate with autism, I became interested in the symptoms of autism and how autism affects people. Choldenko has written a wonderful novel full of action and solving crimes and the importance of communication. This is the second book in the trilogy.
In Al Capone Shines My Shoes, Natalie, a sixteen-year-old girl faced with a severe case of autism, and her twelve-year-old brother, Moose, who is entrusted to take care of her, go on adventures with their friends. At first their life is more hectic than usual because they move to Alcatraz. Moose hates the move because he has to leave his old friends and make new ones, which he is not sure he can do. I know exactly how he feels because my parents are diplomats, so I have moved four times in eleven years. Moose makes a few friends on the island, such as Jimmy, a boy interested in science and flies; Annie, the best baseball player on the island; and Piper, the warden’s daughter and a giant troublemaker.
Moose faces many difficulties throughout this book, because in the first book, Al Capone Does My Shirts, Moose asks Capone to help him get Natalie into a school for autistic children. In this book we learn that, as recompense, Capone asks Moose to get yellow roses for his wife. The first problem is that if Moose is found helping Capone, his family will be thrown off the island. The second challenge is Moose needs to keep Annie quiet after she finds out about his deal with Capone when she accidentally gets Moose’s laundry. Though I have never been in a situation where I have needed to repay a prisoner for something, I can imagine how nerve-racking it would be.
Throughout the second book, Moose shows cunning and quick thinking. For instance, Jimmy’s younger sister gives their baby brother a penny. When Moose hears the baby stop crying, he discerns that something is wrong. He runs with the baby to the doctor’s office and saves the baby’s life. Moose also shows quick thinking when he and Piper spy on an event with Capone and other prisoners. When a guard spots them, Moose quickly comes up with an alibi.
At the end of the book, a conflict arises between Jimmy and Moose, and they stop talking to each other. Later they work as a team to elude capture. Throughout the book, danger and action play vital roles. They help build the suspense but also assist in the telling of the story and create vivid images that the reader can picture from the wonderful descriptions. The book also talks about the importance of relationships and how friendships can be broken apart but also mended once again. I would like to read the third book in the series for it is bound to have wonderful descriptions and great plot lines.