Excerpt from Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Al Capone Shines My Shoes

By Gennifer Choldenko

Al Capone Shines My Shoes
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  • Hardcover: Sep 2009,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2011,
    288 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry

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Print Excerpt


“You’re slow,” I tell him as we press our ears against the frame to listen for unusual sounds, but it’s all quiet. We crack open the door a few inches; still nothing. We push it the rest of the way and Jimmy—because he’s smaller—pokes his head out.

“All clear,” he whispers, and we jump down.

Just as Jimmy finishes replacing the screws in the hinge, we hear footsteps on the old cement stairwell. “Uh-oh,” I whisper as I spot shiny black guard shoes coming down.

“Thought you was working this morning, Jimmy?” Darby bellows through his ever present bullhorn.

“Yes, sir,” Jimmy says.

Darby peers over the railing, but he can’t see me because I’m getting the baseball gear I stashed in one of the storage rooms.

“What you doing down there?” he asks Jimmy.

“Nothing, sir,” Jimmy answers.

“Nothing, huh? Do I look like I was born yesterday, Jimmy?” Darby asks.

“No sir,” Jimmy replies, skedaddling up the stairs. Jimmy doesn’t say anything about me. He knows it’s better if Darby doesn’t see me. Darby hates me on account of I’m Natalie’s brother. Natalie really bugs him.

I stand quietly, waiting for them to leave. When they’re gone, I climb up to apartment 3H, Annie Bomini’s place. Annie’s the only kid on the whole island who’s any good at baseball. What a shame she’s a girl.

I peer through the screen door, focusing on the wooden table in the Bominis’ living room. It was made by the cons in the furniture shop that Annie’s father runs. The Bominis have a lot of wood stuff plus needlepoint everywhere. Needlepoint pillows, tablecloths, tissue holders, seat covers. Mrs. Bomini has a needlepoint toilet cover for every day of the week. I don’t know why you need a Monday toilet seat cover on Mondays. Is it that important to know what day it is when you do your business?

“Annie, c’mon,” I call, hoping Mrs. Bomini isn’t around. Mrs. Bomini is a one-woman talking machine. Once she gets you cornered you pretty much have to have a heart attack and be carried away on a stretcher before she’ll stop.

Annie’s skin is pale, and her hair is so blond it’s almost white. She looks twelve but kind of old too, like forty-two. She’s squarish from head to foot, like God used a T-square to assemble her.

Annie props open the screen door with her foot. “Moose.” She gulps, her big flat face looking pinched today. “You won’t believe what happened.”

Uh-oh, what if she doesn’t want to play? That’s the trouble with girls. They have to actually feel like playing.

“What happened?” I ask.

“We got the wrong laundry. We got yours,” she whispers.

Laundry . . . that is the one word I don’t feel like hearing right now. Ever since I got that note from Al Capone, I’ve been very careful to be the first person to get my laundry in case he decides to send another note. My mom has even noticed. “Why, you’re taking care of your own laundry now, Moose, isn’t that nice,” my mom said.

“So? Just give it back.” I try to keep my voice from sounding as panicky as I feel.

“I didn’t realize it was your laundry. I started putting it away and . . . Moose, there was a note in the pocket of your shirt.”

“A-a note?” My voice breaks high like a girl’s.

My hands shake as she gives me a scrap of paper folded twice. My mind floods with things I don’t want to think about. Al Capone, the warden’s office, Natalie being thrown out of school.

Excerpted from Al Capone Shines my Shoes © Copyright 2009 by Gennifer Choldenko. Reprinted with permission by Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group. All rights reserved.

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