Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Al Capone Shines My Shoes

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Al Capone Shines My Shoes

by Gennifer Choldenko

Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko
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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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Beyond the Book

Alcatraz and Al Capone
Alcatraz, the setting of Choldenko's novel, is as vivid and interesting as her characters. She got to know its layout, the way the sun looks on the sea around it, its birds and its weather while working there for a year as a docent.

Most famous as the site of a federal prison, Alcatraz Island was first a military fortress, home to the first lighthouse on the Pacific Coast in the mid 1850's, and a military prison for prisoners of the Civil and Spanish American Wars. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, hundreds of civilian prisoners were transferred to Alcatraz. By the 1920's the three-story prison was nearly at full capacity. Ownership shifted from the Army to the Department of Justice in 1934, and work began to outfit the prison with maximum-security enhancements. In 1963, the prison was shut down due to structural deterioration and excessive operational costs. The island remained essentially abandoned until 1969 when a large group of about 100 ...

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