Josiah's Reviews > Al Capone Shines My Shoes

Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko
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's review
Feb 05, 2010

it was ok

I like the remark that Gennifer Choldenko makes in the Acknowledgements at the end of this book, when thanking her editor: "Editing me is sort of like trying to put a seat belt on the Energizer Bunny and Kathy always manages to make it look effortless." That line embodies well the smart humor found often in Al Capone Shines My Shoes, and I can see how a writer with such a sharp mind might be a handful for an editor.

As with its predecessor, this book is one of the most unique volumes that the genre of historical fiction has ever seen. Usually an historical fiction tome is set in a scene with many other active participants, making it easy for the independent actions of one person to blend in with the thread of history, but there really weren't all that many families living on Alcatraz Island in 1935. Gennifer Choldenko manages this scene with impeccable ability, using her well-crafted characters to tell a story that reaches all points in the spectrum of human emotion, while taking a look at ideas such as responsibility and the necessity of being aware of what's happening around oneself, and the troubles and rewards of living with a family member that has an issue like autism. In her Author's Note, Gennifer Choldenko says that she likes to think that she has kept alive in the pages of her books about Moose Flanagan on Alcatraz something of the spirit of her own autistic sister, and I agree that it seems that she has done this, and very well. Natalie Flanagan is a character who really seems to live and breathe and evoke a sense of who she is in the reader's mind.

Overall, I would say that Al Capone Shines My Shoes is a very good book. The writing is solid, never faltering, and the plot certainly kept me guessing the whole way through. I like the way that Moose's thoughts about life on Alcatraz and about the ways that the other kids who live there affect his own life rang so true to me while reading. Moose is kind of figuring out the mysteries of life and of dealing with others in a world where one doesn't have to be autistic to be majorly confused about relationships, and the lucky person reading the book gets to go along on that journey.

Al Capone Shines My Shoes is highly memorable, very funny, and filled with great characters. It also allows kids to absorb a lot of truly fascinating history while taking in an excellent story at the same time. I would give two and a half stars to this book.
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Reading Progress

February 5, 2010 – Started Reading
February 5, 2010 – Shelved
February 5, 2010 –
page 9
February 6, 2010 –
page 15
February 6, 2010 –
page 39
February 6, 2010 –
page 70
February 6, 2010 –
page 101
February 6, 2010 –
page 139
February 7, 2010 –
page 151
February 7, 2010 –
page 238
February 7, 2010 – Finished Reading

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