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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  • First Published:
    Sep 2009, 288 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2011, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry

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Print Excerpt


“Tell her, Moose. Tell her how wonderful it’s going to be,” my mother says.

“Tell her, Moose. Tell her how wonderful it’s going to be,” Nat repeats, picking up her button box and holding it tight against her chest.

“You get to take your buttons, Nat. Mom said,” I say.

I almost think I see her smile then—as much of a smile as you ever get from Natalie anyway. She peeks inside her button box, checking to make sure all of her precious buttons are exactly where they’re supposed to be.

When we head down to the dock, my mom’s step is light on the stairs. She’s so sure that the Esther P. Marinoff will be the thing that fixes Natalie. My dad’s feet are moving to the beat of an Irish jig. Natalie is taking each step carefully and methodically as if she wants each foot to make a lasting impression on the stairs.

When we get down to the water’s edge I see Trixle walking across the dock, bullhorn in hand.

Two hundred yards back please! All boats must stay two hundred yards off the shore! ” Officer Trixle booms through his bullhornto a tour boat that has come too close to the island.

“Warned him before, that one. Mac’ll put a bead on him. Fix ’em good,” Trixle tells my father.

Natalie hates loud noises. Once they shot a warning blast into the water when we were in our apartment and she curled up in a ball in the middle of the living room and stayed that way for the better part of the afternoon. Another time she didn’t seem to hear a gun go off ten feet away. It’s impossible to predict what Natalie will do.

“Darby, hey Darby . . .” my father wheedles. “Please—not today, okay, buddy?”

“Got to learn to straighten up and fly right,” Darby mutters, “if she’s coming back, that is.” His eyes are bright with the unasked question.

Before the tower guard can get the boat in his gun sights, it turns starboard and hightails back to the city, and the tick in my mom’s cheek relaxes.

Officer Trixle gets a happy little bounce to his step. He motions to the guard tower anyway, and the guard tower officer pelts the bay with a showy spray of firepower that pounds like fireworks exploding inside your head.

Natalie shrieks high and piercing like the escape siren. She closes her eyes, wraps her arms around her head, and begins to rock.

The bullets don’t get anywhere near the tour boat, but it roars forward, sinking low behind as it struggles to gain speed.

“Natalie, it’s all done now. It’s all over. No more guns, okay? No more,” I tell her as my mother digs in her bag for the emergency lemon cake.

“They were leaving already,” my mom whispers to my father.

“That was completely unnecessary.”

“He’s just doing his job, Helen,” my father says, but his face is pinched like his belt is a notch too tight.

Nat’s arms stay wrapped around her head like a bandage. She rocks from foot to foot, still making her little shrieks.

Trixle hitches up his trousers and walks toward us. He stares at Natalie. “Got a problem here, Cam?”

“No problem. We got it under control.” My father’s voice is confident and commanding like a Boy Scout leader’s.

Trixle sucks on his lip. “Don’t look that way to me.”

“Just scared her is all,” my father tells him.

Trixle clears his throat. “Gonna have to do an incident report on this, Cam. Warden’s orders.”

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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