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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Our best day last week we heard Mrs. Caconi and Officer Trixle’s wife, Bea, discussing hair that grows out of your ear hole. Apparently Darby Trixle has big bushes of ear hair Bea has to clip every week. We could hardly keep from laughing out loud when we heard this.

That’s the one thing we have to be wary of down here: noise. We’re pretty sure they can hear us in the apartments above, if we aren’t really quiet.

“Hey Jimmy, you working today?” I ask once we determine no one is in Mrs. Caconi’s apartment.

Jimmy’s been helping Bea Trixle, who runs the canteen, our island store. He doesn’t get paid for it, but whenever he works, Bea gives his mom a discount on whatever she buys. Sometimes Theresa helps too, but only if Janet Trixle isn’t around. Theresa is the same age as Janet, but she and Janet can’t stand each other. According to Theresa, Janet’s only real interests are rules and collecting stuff for her fairy jail.

“I’m off at two,” Jimmy says. “You gonna bring Scout to see the flies?”

Jimmy really likes flies. He knows a lot of unusual facts about them too. Flies puke when they land. Flies taste with their feet. Apparently they puke, then they lick the vomit up with their toes.

“Sure,” I say. “But Scout’s gonna want to play ball.”

In the last few weeks, Jimmy has become my best friend on Alcatraz, despite the fact that he stinks at baseball. If a baseball flew into Jimmy’s glove he wouldn’t know what to do with it. He’d probably use it to brush his teeth. Maybe he’d plant it in the ground to grow a big old baseball tree. The kid has no idea.

Jimmy’s nose lifts in the air—ah, ah, ah choo. He sprays me with snot and knocks his glasses off.

I wipe off my arm. “Thanks a lot, Jimmy,” I say.

Ah, ah, ah choo. He sneezes again, but this time he turns his head away and gives the ants a bath instead of me. “You want me to play?” he asks.

“Of course,” I say. “I always want you to play.”

Jim cocks his head as if he doesn’t quite believe this. “But Scout plays all the time. He’s good, right?”

“He’s not great or anything.”

Jimmy grins. “Oh, okay. Me neither.”

I don’t know what to say to this. Even in our secret place it seems better not to tell Jimmy that Scout’s “not great” is so much better than his “not great” that it isn’t fair to compare.

“C’mon, let’s go. I want to find Annie and get my arm warmed up before Scout gets here,” I say.

Crawling back, Jimmy picks his way slowly and carefully, stopping every time he has a question. “Think Scout’ll like my fly project?”

Jimmy’s latest project is to teach flies tricks. He wants to hold a circus and charge admission.

“Course,” I say.

Jimmy starts moving forward, then he stops again. “Think Scout will like me?”

“Sure. I told him all about you.”

Jimmy considers this. “Good, because I’ve got a new idea. I’m thinking the problem is quantity. I don’t have enough flies.”

I sit back on my haunches and wait while Jimmy launches into a technical explanation of his breeding plans. There is no stopping Jimmy Mattaman when he gets talking about his flies.

When he finally gets to the door, I scamper after him, covering the same ground in one-third the time. “You’re fast,” he observes.

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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