BookBrowse Reviews Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Al Capone Shines My Shoes

by Gennifer Choldenko

Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

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

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


The sequel to the celebrated children's novel, Al Capone Does My Shirts

Al Capone Shines My Shoes is the sequel to Choldenko's celebrated Al Capone Does My Shirts. Twelve-year old Moose Flanagan continues his account of life on the Rock and the conflicts and crises that beset the isolated community of cons, guards, mothers and kids who call it home. Moose's voice - so true, so funny, so boyish, so irreverant - will make you want to stand up and applaud Choldenko's bravura encore:

Alcatraz Island is shaped like a wedding cake with three tiers and lots of paths and stairs and switchbacks that lead from one level to the next. The parade ground where we play baseball… makes a pretty good field except for the wind. I can't tell you how irritating it is to hit a good ball and have the wind make it a foul.

…Piper flies down the steep switchback on her roller skates, her long hair streaming behind her, her dress flowing back so you can see the outline of her - okay, never mind what you can see.

The romantic and scary island, the soothing and beautiful rhythm of baseball, and the too-delicious Piper (who smells of talc and root beer) are just a few of the powerful forces at work on Moose as he struggles to remain unruffled and do right by his friends, his parents, and his autistic older sister, Natalie. But there is real turbulence under Moose's affable surface, and beneath the prison there are dark and dusty passageways where the children hide to confess their fears or eavesdrop on their parents confessing theirs. The cons live the most public and regulated lives - assembling on the hour to be counted - but as they live and work under the scrutiny of the guards there are dangerous machinations and upsetting communications hidden inside their slightest movements or gestures. The many layers-within-layers of the wedding cake are just one of Choldenko's many triumphs here.

The story opens as Moose finds himself caught between two mysterious and volatile forces, Al Capone and his sister Natalie. Capone is the rock star of the prison population, infamous, charismatic, rich and powerful; Natalie is isolated, deeply vulnerable, emotionally reactive and precariously rigid. Capone, who remains unseen for most of the novel, communicates with Moose via notes tucked into his laundry. Natalie - away attending a special boarding school in San Francisco that Moose and his family know offers her a last chance to learn to control the whirlpool of feeling that threatens to drown her - is always a felt presence to Moose: Is she safe? Is she suffering? Is she happy?

In the first book Capone secretly used his pull to help Natalie find a place at the special school, and the sequel opens with his demand for payback from Moose. Moose's anxiety about what Capone will require, and the need for secrecy (to protect his father), carry the reader along and provide genuine suspense. But Choldenko's greatest achievement is the creation of the inner worlds of her characters: all complicated, turbulent, alive, surprising, sweet and deep.

Readers interested in Al Capone Shines My Shoes may want to start at the beginning with Al Capone Does My Shirts. Even though this one stands alone, readers will likely want to spend more time with Moose. His irresistible voice will draw in even the most reluctant readers, and is a welcome addition to the dearth of fiction attractive to 10-12 year old boys.

Reviewed by Jo Perry

This review is from the October 21, 2009 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
    The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley
    by Hannah Tinti
    Hannah Tinti follows her spectacular 2008 debut, The Good Thief, with a novel of uncommon ...
  • Book Jacket: Music of the Ghosts
    Music of the Ghosts
    by Vaddey Ratner
    Music of the Ghosts is about healing and forgiveness, but it is also about identity and the revival ...
  • Book Jacket: Castle of Water
    Castle of Water
    by Dane Huckelbridge
    When a whopping 24 out of 27 readers give a book 4 or 5 stars, you know you have a winner on your ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Nest
by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

A funny and acutely perceptive debut about four siblings and the fate of their shared inheritance.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Manderley Forever
    by Tatiana de Rosnay

    Bestselling author Tatiana de Rosnay pays homage to Daphne du Maurier.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    No One Is Coming to Save Us
    by Stephanie Powell Watts

    One of Entertainment Weekly, Nylon and Elle's most anticipated books of 2017.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...

Poetry is like fish...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y S M B, I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
Modal popup -