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Al Capone Does My Shirts (Al Capone at Alcatraz, #1)
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Al Capone Does My Shirts (Al Capone at Alcatraz #1)

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  25,402 ratings  ·  2,501 reviews
Today I moved to a twelve-acre rock covered with cement, topped with bird turd and surrounded by water. I'm not the only kid who lives here. There's my sister, Natalie, except she doesn't count. And there are twenty-three other kids who live on the island because their dads work as guards or cook's or doctors or electricians for the prison, like my dad does. Plus, there ar...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 20th 2006 by Puffin (first published January 1st 2004)
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Newbery Medal Honor Books
18th out of 306 books — 252 voters
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171st out of 2,165 books — 1,973 voters

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Community Reviews

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I had to read this book once I learned that it is about little kids who lived on Alcatraz in the 1930s. Ever since I was a little girl I've wanted to purchase Alcatraz Island and live there. (Plus, it's a Newberry Honor Book, so it sort of counts towards my goal.)

The book centers around a family: a mother, a father, a "ten" year old sister, and a twelve year old brother, our protagonist, Moose. The family has just moved to Alcatraz Island where the father works around the clock at two jobs so th...more
Rick Riordan
I’ve been meaning to read this for a while, and I’m glad I finally got the chance. It tells the story of 12-year-old Moose Flanagan, whose family moves to Alcatraz in the 1930s when his dad takes a job as a prison guard. The first-person narration is beautifully done. I loved the humor and the relationships between the characters. We assume Al Capone will have a role to play in the book, but it’s not clear what that role will be until the very end, when we get a Gangster ex Machina resolution. I...more
Sep 24, 2012 Kristine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: family and friends of someone with autism, anyone
I read this poolside during our SoCal vacation -- and I was pleasantly surprised.

Moose's family moves to Alcatraz where his dad has taken a job as an electrician. He has a "younger" sister who has autism and the family is trying to get her into a special school.

If you think about it there are so many parts of the story that are heart-wrenching . . . the author does an amazing job of making emotional connections with each character. You can see the grief cycle in each member: anger, denial, bar...more
Surprisingly upbeat for a book set in the Great Depression and dealing with the subject of autism. From the first paragraphs I realized that this was not the light-hearted, funny book that the title suggested. And yet it was a good wholesome read that left one feeling better rather than worse. This book walks the fine line between tense and funny and yet has heart. It should be a good recommendation for reluctant readers, particularly of the young male persuasion.

Told from a young man's perspec...more
Julia M
I absolutely adore this book! Initially, I had to read it for a children's literature class two years ago, but I chose to pick it up again recently because I loved it so much. The story is about a young boy named Moose and his experiences growing up as a prison guard's son on Alcatraz during the 1930's. Moose's younger sister Natalie has special needs, and although her specific diagnosis is unknown, we as readers can assume that she is autistic. Moose's life is made even more interesting when he...more
This big kid adored this book for kids and the audio version with narration by Johnny Heller is superb.
This is why it pays for writers to be creative. I was looking around for books by authors I hadn’t read before and I remembered the title so I gave it a shot. I’m glad I did.
The setting is original. Imagine moving to and growing up on Alcatraz. The book is centered on Moose, whose father works as an electrician and guard. He has an autistic older sister named Natalie and his nemesis on the island is Piper who just happens to be the warden’s daughter.
You can’t help but feel sorry for Moose and Na...more
I really enjoyed reading Al Capone Does My Shirts for a few reasons. First of all, it was a very quick read. The writing style was so simple, so it was a walk in the park to read on a Tuesday night. Secondly, the setting and the characters were very interesting. I think many of the characters had unique voices and mannerisms that made them memorable. However, some of the characters weren't very active in the plot and it just left me with questions about their participation in the book. The under...more
With a name like Al Capone Does My Shirts, I was settled in for a good light read, not. Not that it isn't an easy read but there is pathos in this story of Moose Flannagan. Moose is the brother of a severely challenged sister, Natalie, who cannot function in society and is sometimes entombed in her own frightening world to the exclusion of even her family.
Moose's father is a prison guard/electrician on the island of Alcatraz. His mother takes a boat to San Francisco most days to teach piano and...more
This is a really great book. I'd been meaning to read it for years and finally got around to it! Moose Flanagan and his family move to Alcatrez Island where his father works as a guard so that his sister Natalie can go to a special school in San Francisco for kids with disabilities. Today, Natalie would have been diagnosed with autism, but back then they didn't know what to do with her. The author deals with this topic very sensitively and emotionally, because it's based on her own experiences w...more
I know I'm late to discovering this one, but it is just terrific. Great historical fiction, but also a whole lot more as we watch Moose navigate a move, new school, and the challenges of having a sister who today we'd identify as having autism. Choldenko's development of Moose's character is masterful. She nailed the adolescent firestorm of emotions.
Looking for a book for an adolescent? This is a Newbery Honor book, and the first of a series, but it stands alone. I heard the author speak and bought her book. Choldenko studied the prison records and learned that Al Capone really did work in the laundry room at Alcatraz. This story grew out of that fact. Quick and easy chapter read. Probably for middle school, grades 6-8.

Fiction, set in about 1932, based on the gangster's incarceration at "The Rock" in San Francisco Bay. The prison-keepers'...more
I don't agree with the enthusiasm for this book. A Newbery Honor, really? At least it didn't win.

I wanted to like this book. A story about families living on Alcatraz where the worst of the worst convicts reside was alluring. But this book just didn't cut it. The characters developments were horrid. Moose was wishy-washy, Piper incredibly reckless, and the adults were idiots. The only character that the author got right was Natalie. Plus, the whole 'let's see how close we can monopolize Al Capo...more
Kristine Pratt
I'd heard a lot about this book and am very glad I finally picked it up. For one thing, you've got Alcatraz - what's not to like about the country's most famous prison for a setting for a kid's book?

Oh don't get me wrong, this isn't a book for little kids, it's actually aimed at middle readers though older readers can get a lot out of it too.

Now we add in the depression, one of the world's most famous criminals, and autism and you've got something interesting.

Yep, I said autism.

This isn't so...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Though I first heard of this book years ago, I didn’t really know anything about it and wasn’t particularly moved to learn more. It just looked like it would be some sort of book with typical guy humor and gangsters, which just is not my scene. However, I got an ARC of book three, which I totally didn’t get to on time, but I refuse to feel guilty about that since they sent me book three in a series I’d not read. Anyway, that made me want to give the series a shot, and the audiobook was on Overdr...more
Patti Spietz
Al Capone Does My Shirts was written in 2004 by Gennifer Choldenko. The book was named as a Newbery Honor selection and in 2007 it received the California Young Reader Medal.
The book is set in 1935 on Alcatraz Island during the Depression. The story is told in first person style, through Moose, a twelve-year-old boy. There are multiple themes going on while reading, such as parent and child relationships, peer relationships, bullying, and dealing with disabilities. Moose’s family has moved the...more
Kari Lynn

In 1935 twelve-year-old Moose Flanagan moves with his parents and autistic sister to Alcatraz Island where his father takes a job as a prison guard and electrician. This story showcases a family who struggle with staying strong while facing the adversity of raising a child with a disability, and the reality of the Great Depression.

We are introduced to Moose and his feelings about moving Alcatraz right away. It is apparent that this move turns Moose's life upside down. I felt for Moose from the...more
Liked it. Plot circles around society's treatment of autisitic children in the 1930's and one brother's efforts to help his autistic sister. Creative plot location.
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
Interesting setting (Alcatraz, 1930s) and unusual characters
(boy with autistic sister), but I wouldn't have given this the Newbery honor book award.
Jan 24, 2009 Valerie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Ian
This book had an intriguing setting, 1935 San Francisco and a great sibling story line.
Aaron Gibson
Aside from a weakly created, clever title, ACDMS is a wonderful YA title. Though I didn't get much from it, there is much to be gained by adolescents in this text. Cover to cover, I don't think it holds up as teachable text. However, as part of a unit it could prove to be a useful text: learning disabilities (autism), history (time piece), crime (set in Alcatraz and tells stories of the inmates), tolerance (you'll see), etc. I had trouble finding MYSELF in the story (I'm needy like that). This l...more
Perfect. Funny. Smart.
Beverly Kennett
I watched this story as a play. The story takes place on Alcatraz during the time frame when the legendary criminal, Al Capone, was imprisoned there. The story revolves around a family, whose father takes a job working at the prison, therefore his wife and two children move to the island to live with him. His son isn't happy about leaving his friends and is also worried that his parents aren't going about getting help for his autistic sister in the right way. Over time, the boy makes new friends...more
Oct 08, 2008 Aaron rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: all ages
Recommended to Aaron by: my teacher
This book is about a character named moose flanagan who has moved to alcataraz because of his dads job. Another main character is natalie flanagan who is 16, but has unsual problems and she acts like a ten your old natalie which they didnt really know why, but to let you know she has autism which is a brain development disorder but this book was placed in 1935,but autism wasn't discovered until 1943. Later in the story Moose meets a girl named piper who wants to start a laundry business after fi...more
First of all, congratulations to me for finishing the first half of my exams. YAY! Dread on the results later. I know, totally not related to my review so I'll move on now. Al Capone Does My Shirts is a very interesting, enjoyable and light read, which I actually enjoyed more than what I expected.


Moose Flanagan and his family have just moved to Alcatraz Island so that his father can take a job as a prison guard and his sister Natalie can go to a special school. Moose misses his old baseb...more
Linda Lipko
2005 was a stellar year for Newbery Award winning books. Al Capone Does My Shirts joins two of my favorites, Kira Kira which won the medal and Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boys which was another honor winner that year.

The setting is 1935 when twelve year old Moose Flanagan moves with his family to Alcatraz prison. His father has a new job as a guard and an electrician on the island. Moose is having a difficult time adjusting, but the learning curve is not as steep as it is for his autistic...more
Paola M
Al Capone does my shirts By: Genniger Choldenko

Al Capone does my shirts is one of those catchers, it traps you in its pages and forces you to keep reading until it ends. Natalie who suffers autism and moose Flanagan who struggles with her sister’s disease, live on Alcatraz due to the work of their father, everything revolves around Natalie’s disability. One reason I enjoyed this book so much was because of the techniques the author uses, one author technique I found very interesting in this bo...more
Patty Mulchrone
Throughout her 2004 novel, Al Capone Does My Shirts, Gennifer Choldenko explores the dynamic of family life during the tumultuous Great Depression. Using historic Alcatraz Island as a backdrop, Choldenko skillfully crafts a story about a young boy, struggling to break through feelings of isolation while measuring up to the burdensome expectations of society.

It is 1935. The nation is out of work, and people from coast to coast are struggling to stay afloat; however, Moose Flannigan, oddly enough...more
What makes me really love a book is when the author is a master at creating characters so vivid that you can either get behind them or you want to smack them because you hate them so much.

Choldenko does a great job of doing both in this book. You really feel for the main character, Moose, and the horrible reality of his situation having basically lost his childhood because he has to look after his autistic sister, Natalie, all the time.

You want to smack Moose's mother for being so oblivious to...more
Nick C
Sep 29, 2008 Nick C rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Any one who enjoys a great story
Recommended to Nick by: No one
Twelve-year-old Moose Flannagan doesn't know how to feel about his new home. Sure, at first he thinks it's cool to live right in San Francisco Bay, but the neighbors are not very kind.Moose and his family live on Alcatraz Island, where Moose's dad has a new job as prison guard. At school off the island Moose doesn't fit in. The other kids think living on Alcatraz is a little weird, they also don't understand why Moose can't stay after school to play ball.

Moose has to head home to watch his sis...more
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EDCI 570 Al Capone: Piper and characterization 10 11 Jul 10, 2014 10:08AM  
Al Capone Does My Shirts 2 9 Jun 27, 2014 07:00PM  
Upper Elementary ...: Al Capone Does My Shirts 1 1 Jun 20, 2014 07:09PM  
Upper Elementary ...: Al Capone Does My Shirts 1 4 Jun 07, 2014 04:15PM  
What do you think on this book 5 25 Feb 10, 2014 08:16PM  
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How did a girl named Snot-Nose end up publishing children’s books?

Here are the facts as I know them . . .

I am the youngest of four kids, all of whom have big mouths. We were so loud, that once a lady asked my brother if our mother was deaf.

She was not.

The only sibling who did not have the trademark Johnson big mouth was my sister, Gina, who had Autism. My parents worked very hard to try to fig...more
More about Gennifer Choldenko...
Al Capone Shines My Shoes (Al Capone at Alcatraz, #2) If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period No Passengers Beyond This Point Al Capone Does My Homework (Al Capone at Alcatraz, #3) Notes from a Liar and Her Dog

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