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Tales from Alcatraz #2

Al Capone Shines My Shoes

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Moose and the cons are about to get a lot closer in this much-anticipated sequel. It's 1935. Moose Flanagan lives on Alcatraz with his family, the other families of the guards, and a few hundred no-name hit men, con men, mad dog murderers and a handful of bank robbers too. And one of those cons has just done him a big favor.

You see, Moose has never met Al Capone, but a few weeks ago Moose wrote a letter to him asking him to use his influence to get his sister, Natalie, into a school she desperately needs in San Francisco. After Natalie got accepted, a note appeared in Moose?s freshly laundered shirt that said: Done.

As this book begins, Moose discovers a new note. This one says: Your turn. Is it really from Capone? What does it mean? Moose can?t risk anything that might get his dad fired. But how can he ignore Al Capone?

274 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Gennifer Choldenko

24 books651 followers
There’s a Lego in my bum which fits with the Lego in my chair and when I sit down to write, I hear the satisfying snap of the two pieces fitting together. I love words, dictionaries, thesauruses, sharp pencils, the smell of book ink and the delicious art of carving out sentences on clean white paper. I love to slip into another person’s skin and feel what it’s like to live another life. I love when characters come to me out of nowhere and make me cry so hard my mascara runs or laugh until my stomach hurts. I love the crazy fun and infinite possibility of storytelling.

What prepared me for a life of writing fiction? Though I have a BA from Brandeis University in English and American Literature and a BFA in illustration from Rhode Island School of Design, the true answer is probably genes. I come from a long line of Irish storytellers on my father’s side and theatre people on my mother’s. I always knew I loved to write, but it took me a long time to summon the courage to chase the dream. I finally went for it when I realized I would prefer to be a failure at something I wanted to do, then a success at something I didn’t.

While I was pretending I wasn’t a writer, trying to be a nice person with a nice quiet job somewhere, I sold lingerie, lipstick and lamp shades. I wrote junk mail. I taught visually and hearing-impaired kids horseback riding. I held a prestigious job in rubbish removal and I worked in a factory wearing a paper gown while wielding a large mallet on small serving packages of ketchup.

One Third Nerd, my funniest novel yet, is due out in January 2019. My most famous novel, Al Capone Does My Shirts, garnered 20 awards, one of which was the Newbery Honor. The Tales of Alcatraz series has sold more than 2 million copies. What will probably be the last book in the series: Al Capone Throws Me a Curve is the best of the fifteen books I’ve written so far.

I am a fitness fanatic; a book-obsessed, tennis-playing woman who thinks like a twelve-year-old. If I ever get the good fortune to meet you, offer me coffee and I will be your friend for life.

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5 stars
2,667 (33%)
4 stars
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3 stars
1,722 (21%)
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97 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 889 reviews
Profile Image for Karina.
765 reviews
April 25, 2022
"But the note has made me wonder if Capone is crazy. Does he really expect me to buy a dozen yellow roses and hand them to Mae? If I did that, I would get my family kicked off the island in about thirty seconds. Maybe forty-five. He has to know that, doesn't he?" (PG. 58)

I really enjoy this series by Gennifer Choldenko. I really like the premise of these families living together on Alcatraz Island with the worst criminals and murderers ever made. The kids are always getting themselves into a crazy problem that could have come out worse if it was true life.

My favorite character is Moose but I don't think the author gives him enough growth. He is such a sweet, naive kid that loves his autistic sister so much that he'll pummel anyone that calls her names. (I.E Slow in the head, wrong in the head, etc)

Such a fun book to read and fascinating facts at the end.
Profile Image for Jenn Ginder.
21 reviews
February 26, 2012
There were a lot of things about this sequel that worked better, but I felt like I wanted there to be more to Moose. The author states that Moose is a pleaser, but I felt like I didn't get a good enough window into Moose's internal conflict about this - or as much as I would have liked.
I liked what the author did with Natalie in this book. It was interesting to see how she progressed as she settled into her visit from Ester P. Marinoff and see her become more than a helpless character.
The author offered some great twists based on problems that had started in the previous book. There is a scene at the end that is so vivid and intense that I didn't want to put the book down during.
Overall, I would say it is a worthy sequel.
Profile Image for Renee Wallace.
123 reviews6 followers
September 14, 2009
It is so rare to find a sequel to a winner that is, itself, another winner, but here it is.

Frankly, I expected to be disappointed, as sequels seem to be... well, blech. Not this one!

I am not sure how the author manages so well to make a protagonist of the gender opposite hers, sound so real, so believable; but she does. (I wonder if she has taught middle school, or been a den mother, or something like that.)

The setting of Alcatraz in the thirties is just as fascinating as it was on her first go-round, and the air of mystery is engendered not only by our knowledge, as we read, that the nefarious Al Capone is lurking, albeit behind bars; the children themselves make even more mystery, suspense, and adventure, as well as a lot of humorous asides!

The dialogue is so realistic, and feels genuine--whether it is the kids, talking to each other, or the parents to the kids, or ESPECIALLY, a guard to that famous prisoner!

Noteworthy: the continuation of our hero's sister's own special story. This is handled so well, yet so delicately, and is very poignant. Her relationship to each character with whom she comes into contact is dealt with masterfully.

I love this book. I did not put it down, until I finished it. I hope it sells a billion copies! It should be recommended to middle and upper elementary readers and should be recommended with gusto!
Profile Image for Sophia.
Author 5 books325 followers
July 19, 2018
In the second book, it was fun times returning to an adventure on Alcatraz with Moose and the other kids. I've enjoyed these young teen adventures from back in the 1930's set on Alcatraz where the families of the guards and Warden live.

Al Capone Shines My Shoes picks up right after the events of the previous book. Moose is happy his sister is able to attend her special school, but he knows its never a good idea to owe Al Capone a favor. It isn't long before Moose gets word from the man and has to figure out how to fulfill the request.

Meanwhile, he gets entangled in troubles with his friends and finds that trouble has found him and his family once again. Baseball, fly collections, new babies, girl troubles, a guard out to sink him, and troubles he never saw coming make Alcatraz a rather exciting place to be for a young teenage boy.

I was captivated when I read book four so now I've gone back to get the rest of Moose's story in order. I love the blend of history and fiction the authors does. She paints a vivid picture of life in the 30's, but particularly life for those living in the shadow of the prison on Alcatraz. Color characters entertain. Moose is a great hero. He is an average teenage boy who loves baseball, can't figure out girls, and loyally helps his family care for his sister with her special needs.

It's fun reading and then it had a fabulous grand finale at the end that had me riveted. I can't wait to snag the next book in the series.
Profile Image for Laura.
811 reviews237 followers
October 27, 2015
This is such a wonderful Middle-grade series. This book was not as sentimental as the first but an original storyline. Not a recap of the first book. Love these kids!
Profile Image for Book Concierge.
2,709 reviews325 followers
January 4, 2020
Digital audiobook narrated Kirby Heyborne.


Book two in this entertaining middle-school series, set on Alcatraz Island during the Great Depression. Moose Flanagan’s dad is a guard at the maximum security prison, and the family lives in the apartments provided for workers and their families. His sister, Natalie, has a condition that is apparently autism (though that diagnosis wasn’t used in this time frame, so it is never identified as such), and attends a special boarding school. But she comes home for a visit during a school holiday and that coincides with some major events on the island.

I was completely charmed by the first book, and certainly interested in this second outing. The relationships between the kids seem real to me. Moose is unfailingly “nice” to everyone, and so is liked by both kids and adults. He’s passionate about baseball, and has a huge crush on the warden’s daughter, Piper. His gang of friends includes Jimmy, who is terrible at sports but fascinated by insects, Annie, who can throw better than most boys, and Theresa, a wise-beyond-her-years 7-year old who is Jimmy’s little sister.

Moose deals with many of the things most 12-year-olds have to face, including bullying, peer pressure, and adults who don’t understand him. But he’s also burdened by a unique relationship with one particular inmate: Al Capone.

Kirby Heyborne does a find job narrating the audiobook. He’s a little less successful trying to voice the various female characters, though he does a reasonably good job with Natalie and Theresa.
Profile Image for Ellen.
1,355 reviews28 followers
September 29, 2020
Moose Flanagan has a problem. How does one repay a favor done by none other than Al Capone? Moose had written a letter to the Alcatraz convict asking him to intercede on behalf of Moose's autistic sister Natalie to secure her a place at an innovative school that could help Natalie's future. Moose and his family live on Alcatraz island where his father is a guard/electrician. When Natalie suddenly is accepted at the school Moose is certain his letter did the trick. Then he gets a note in his laundry, which is done by the inmates, stating "your turn". Uh oh.

The children on the island have become fast friends and spend most of their non-school time together; except for Piper, the snooty daughter of the warden. As much as he hates to admit it, Moose is quite taken with pretty Piper although she makes him madder than any person in the world. All of the children will find themselves in extreme danger as some desperate criminals want off the island and have a devious plan in mind.

This series is a lot of fun with some great historical fiction thrown in. The setting is different and the kids are likable (well, most of them). There is a great deal of humor and Moose is such a sweet young man. I will definitely read the next one.
Profile Image for Karin.
1,310 reviews5 followers
March 10, 2020
This wasn't as enjoyable for me as the first one, although I suspect many children would like this and that I'd have enjoyed it quite a bit when I was growing up.

Moose is up to his neck in trouble trying to make everyone happy--something he hasn't yet realized is an impossible task. What's more, Al Capone wants a favour of him in return for ensuing that Moose's sister got accepted into a special school. He wants Moose to give yellow roses to his wife who is coming to visit. Moose is so nervous, he gets a chronic case of hives. The other kids are all up to their usual sort of stunts and shenanigans but the tension keeps on building until the climax when...


If you thought I'd spill the beans, you have another think coming.
Profile Image for Edie.
462 reviews13 followers
March 1, 2009
I was a big fan of the first book so approached this "sequel" a bit hesitantly, but I found myself completely pulled in and enjoying it as much as the first. Budding romance figures in this a bit, and jealousy and Moose, our hero, finds out that it's hard being all things to all people, some people dislike him for trying too hard to be nice. His sister is doing better at her special school but the issue of her illness spawns some clear prejudice which is handled very honestly and adds to the strength of the book. There are secrets, as there always are between children, and some of these secrets could end of being dangerous, so there is that element of suspense. A good read.
Profile Image for SoulSurvivor.
779 reviews
August 17, 2018
A juvenile book , but one that would be excellent for a middle school student questioning autism .
The story is simple but will hold the interest of a 12-15 year old , and teaches patience and tolerance
Profile Image for Shelley.
360 reviews103 followers
January 7, 2020
There was a super bratty kid in the story who deserved the Me, Myself and Irene water fountain treatment when Hank holds the kid's head underwater. That aside I really enjoyed this and would continue with the series. It might help to read the series in order but this can definitely be read as a stand alone without feeling like any background info is missing.
99 reviews
July 24, 2020
This book is pretty fun, especially because some of the things that happen on Alcatraz are based on fact!

A lot of the book does revolve around Moose trying to make everyone happy, and while he does learn some important lessons from it, it can get frustrating at times.

The convicts are perfectly creepy at times while completely ordinary at others, and it really makes you rethink the seemingly normal guy at the grocery store. :)

Great read, just so long as you don't let the middle school shenanigans bother you too much.
Profile Image for Crystal Navarro.
140 reviews31 followers
September 11, 2012
Just the read I needed to get over the last nerve wrecking one I had.

I read the first book in this series when I was in college as part of a group assignment to teach us about grouping for literary groups based on interest and the use of visual representation as a tool to help students express what they pulled from the story. Al Capone Does My Shirts was a lot more interesting than I had expected-- it had been so long since I had read children's or teens literature-- and my group went all out and designed a shirt with baseball logos, Capone's name and his face behind bars, buttons with the characters names on it and presented it to the class. My COLLEGE PROFESSOR was so proud she hung it in the hallway. It's funny how you can still get giddy when you're a 22 year old college student when your teacher puts your work on display.

That aside, I had been needing to read Al Capone Shines My Shoes. It's a story about a boy named Moose and his relationship with his autistic older sister, Natalie, his relationship with his parents, and the friendships he forges on the island of Alcatraz where his father works as a prison guard. In this installment, , but the book goes into much more detail.

I was surprised-- in a good way-- to see that my feelings about certain characters were retained in this book. Piper still aggravated me with her selfish hoity-toity-ness. Annie was still chill and level headed, Theresa still outlandish and deceptively tolerant. Moose was still the best younger brother Natalie could ask for-- even when he himself was feeling guilty over enjoying his family with her away at school. He learned true courage and how being nice to everyone isn't necessarily always the best option.

But he still has a crush on Piper that I will never understand-- I suppose it's just a 12 year old boy thing. The meaner the girl, the prettier she is, the more you like her even though it makes you sick inside.

Definitely a book I would use in the classroom-- it's a good read for kids who have not been exposed much to autism, or for those who simply have a hard time understanding it. Action and adventure, friendship and lots of flawed characters-- a good read, even if it is on the lower end of YA age wise, I still thoroughly enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Becky.
4,985 reviews91 followers
September 4, 2018
First sentence: Nothing is the way it's supposed to be when you live on an island with a billion birds, a ton of bird crap, a few dozen rifles, machine guns, and automatics, and 278 of America's worst criminals--"the cream of the criminal crop" as one of our felons likes to say. The convicts on Alcatraz are rotten to the core, crazy in the head, and as slippery as eels in axle grease.

Premise/plot: Al Capone Shines My Shoes is the sequel to Al Capone Does My Shirts. Both books are set on the island of Alcatraz in 1935. Both are narrated by our baseball loving hero, Moose Flanagan.


In Al Capone Does My Shirts a desperate Moose turns to Al Capone for help. His sister, Natalie, needs to be admitted to a special school--a school for special needs children. The school has rejected her twice claiming that she's too old to be helped or that she's just not a good fit for their program.

Moose's plea for help worked--or at least he thinks it did! Natalie is now away at school. Life should be moving smoothly. But it isn't. It's a MESS. His relationships with his friends are all over the place. There's his off-island friend, Scout, his on-island friends Jimmy, Annie, Theresa, and PIPER. From day to day, Moose is never sure who is going to be MAD at him. But his problems aren't just juvenile. He's got a few ADULT problems as well. Al Capone wants a favor. How can he say yes? How can he say no? No matter what happens next, it could be big, big trouble for him and his family.

My thoughts: Al Capone Shines My Shoes is an action-packed, emotional roller coaster. There's some melodrama with Moose and his friends, but, there's also some very real DRAMA with an attempted prison escape.

I definitely liked this one. It was a quick, compelling read.
Profile Image for Suzanne Moore.
630 reviews113 followers
April 10, 2010
This book is a sequel to Al Capone Does My Shirts. The main character, Moose, is a boy at the age where he begins to recognize girls. What makes his situation unique is that he lives on Alcatraz Island. The year is 1935 and Moose's father is a guard at the notorious prison. I learned that the island was home not only to the prisoners in lock-up, but also to civilians who lived in compounds and ran the prison facilities. The children of the prison warden and the guards are close friends and always have each other’s back. I learned that prisoners actually were assigned many domestic jobs for resident households. I found it interesting that prisoners worked as plumbers, handymen, and did laundry. In this story Moose and the gang foil a prison breakout and there are some interesting twists to the tale. Al Capone, a criminal gangster, was an extremely famous inmate that everyone wanted a look at. Having him as a minor character gave the children a lot to discuss, especially when he began writing notes to Moose and leaving them in the laundry. It seems that despite terrible crimes committed by the mob boss, Al was idolized by many. Looking back at old photos of my dad during this time period, I can see how the gangster look must have been quite popular.
Profile Image for Andrea Mullarkey.
459 reviews
July 24, 2012
What’s not to like about easy, breezy historical fiction for young teens? Moose Flanagan is the son of a guard on Alcatraz and lives on the island with his family and the families of the other guards. The kids of these guards form a small group of friends like the little groups that form in school classrooms with favorites and least favorites, dramas and intrigues. The only difference is they do all of it within view of some of the roughest prisoners in the United States. When Moose asks the most famous prisoner, Al Capone, for help getting his autistic older sister into a special school it sets off a chain reaction that no one on the island is prepared for. This has all the elements of a grown-up prison story: notes passed between prisoners and civilians, sprays of bullets into the Bay, secret meeting places, mean-spirited prison guards, clandestine rendezvous with visitors to the island, a visit from J. Edgar Hoover and Eliot Ness and plans for a big escape attempt. But since I usually can’t tolerate the fear and suspense of these genre books of adults, I loved that this one was written for young teens. An Alcatraz book even I coud handle was really fun. So fun I’m actually thinking it might be worth making a visit to Alcatraz.
Profile Image for Charlie.
127 reviews6 followers
June 30, 2019
Very funny and exciting, I recommend it to all.
Profile Image for Tony.
658 reviews
August 20, 2019
My Gradev= 75% - C

Published 2002. 270 pages.

Earlier this month, August 2019, one of my regular thrift shops had a free book day, and Al Capone Does My Shirts and this book were among the ones I took.

The first one was "ok," and the only view of any convict was a small square of paper with the word "done" written in pencil in the pocket of a shirt supposedly laundered by Al Capone.

It almost seems to me that the author had such a success with her 2004 book that, after having waited five years, she decided to attempt to duplicate her success. It wasn't a success at all.

In "Shines," the criminals are everywhere, with Al Capone appearing several times, once hacking a wad of phlegm into plates of mashed potatoes he was personally serving to J. Edgar Hoover and Elliot Ness - give me a break!

There was a kidnapping of the Warden's newly born baby - about a day old at this point, other abductions, an attempted jail break and other nonsense.

The best part was that the books were free and quick reads.
Profile Image for Me.
460 reviews15 followers
August 13, 2017
Historical fiction/semi-thriller/mystery set in 1935 on Alcatraz. Initially as I was reading this, I was thinking "oh sure! They had inmates doing plumbing and other odd jobs in the guards' houses. Right." Turns out, according to the author's notes at the end, that this was a well researched book, and yes, the inmates did indeed do plumbing and other maintenance jobs on the island. Kids who grew up on Alcatraz remember that they weren't allowed to throw anything sharp in the garbage, as it was hauled by the inmates. The plot surrounds 7 kids, offspring of the guards and warden, that thwart an escape attempt. I appreciated the inclusion of one of the main characters siblings being autistic. That characterization was based on the author's sister and keeping true to 1935, the term autism in not mentioned as it was not yet named.
Profile Image for Miss Ryoko.
2,592 reviews120 followers
February 17, 2021
Ugh... so much time passed between when I started this book and when I finished it (6 months.... life) that I feel I can't give it a proper rating or review because I can't even really remember what most of the book was about. I do know that I liked it and I am enjoying this series.

I did, however, have a huge problem with the way the author talked about autism in the author notes. She wrote about the treatment for autism these days was better than when her and her sister (who had autism) were little and that partial or full recovery from autism was now possible. I feel as if she's treating autism like a disease. These are harmful terms to use that invoke negative associations with autism. And that's problematic.
Profile Image for Cindy.
283 reviews2 followers
May 21, 2022
⭐️⭐️⭐️This book is the 2nd of the Alcatraz trilogy by this author. The story picks up right where “Al Capone Does My Shirts” leaves off. The story carries on with life on the island. Moose, along with the other children of the prison’s employees, face more growing pains and struggles to get along. This book is a little darker, with more conflicts with the convicts, as well as the kids. Moose’s sister Natalie is improving at her new school, but Moose feels guilt over the way he conspired with Scarface to make that happen. Now the notorious gangster says that Moose owes him a good turn…and it sets off a tumultuous cycle. Once again, the author has done extensive research, and many of the incidents in this book are based on actual events on Alcatraz. So the notes at the end are worth reading!
Profile Image for C.J. Milbrandt.
Author 19 books157 followers
May 24, 2019
In this second book set among the families of the guards who live and work on Alcatraz, Moose needs to "get square" with Al Capone. Flies and hives. Mice and mashed potatoes. Buttons and baseball. Escape artists and confidence men. A slice-of-life, small-town kind of story about a tight-knit community where everyone knows everyone else's business.

Historical, set in the 1930s. Loved seeing Natalie again (Moose's sister, who would have been properly diagnosed if autism had been understood back then). She's a brave girl and someone who shouldn't be underestimated.

Profile Image for Clara Biesel.
357 reviews10 followers
August 15, 2017
Again, these books tell really fun story while taking on big questions about prison and children with special needs set in 1930s America. I especially liked the ramifications from the first story in this one.
Profile Image for Nancy Kotkin.
1,363 reviews34 followers
October 26, 2018
The sequel to Al Capone Does My Shirts, and just as wonderful. I really enjoyed spending more time with Moose, Natalie, and the kids on Alcatraz Island. Tightly plotted but with exemplary characterization as well.
5 reviews
February 24, 2020
This book is a thriller! Your in the eyes as moose a young boy who lives in Alcatraz. At the time he was there Al Capone was there too. Moose has to go through a series of problems. If you like realistic fiction than I suggest you read this book.
15 reviews
August 26, 2019
After reading the first book of the series, I couldn’t wait to read the second. And I was not disappointed. This book was a top 10 book I’ve ever read
Profile Image for Jennifer Worrell.
Author 14 books112 followers
May 6, 2022
After finishing the last book, I read ahead to get more insight into the ending. Turns out, it's a delicious continuing thread into a darker, higher-stakes sequel, and hopefully beyond. I love Moose and the cast of young characters (Theresa is a trip) and can't wait to finish the series.
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