Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Today I moved to a twelve-acre rock covered with cement, topped with bird turd and surrounded by water. I'm not the only kid who lives here. There's my sister, Natalie, except she doesn't count. And there are twenty-three other kids who live on the island because their dads work as guards or cook's or doctors or electricians for the prison, like my dad does. Plus, there are a ton of murderers, rapists, hit men, con men, stickup men, embezzlers, connivers, burglars, kidnappers and maybe even an innocent man or two, though I doubt it. The convicts we have are the kind other prisons don't want. I never knew prisons could be picky, but I guess they can. You get to Alcatraz by being the worst of the worst. Unless you're me. I came here because my mother said I had to.


This was an interesting little story and it was clear that the author had spent time researching what life was like on Alcatraz in the 1930's. While I knew of Alcatraz and it's infamous inhabitants, I was not aware that there was a small community on the island consisting of the guards and their families. The only thing that really bothered me was that there seemed to be two competing parallel stories that didn't quite mesh together the way that the author intended. One was the story of Moose and what life was like living on Alcatraz and the other was what it was like to have a child with Autism in the 1930's when "Autism" as we understand it today did not exist (not that we fully understand it today, but we have come a long way since the 30's). 

I often felt like the author was telling two different stories, both of which could have existed without the other. The book could have easily left out the part of Natalie and her Autism and still have been a success and vice versa. Because of this, at times I felt like a spectator at a tennis match, my attention bouncing back and forth between the two, each competing for my attention. They just never really came together for me and gelled into one story, and because of this, I'm not sure that justice was done to each respective story.

Overall, I found it to be an enjoyable story. I think that the author, despite being a female, created a lead male character that many boys can relate to. I found the setting of the story intriguing and the characters and plot fun. There are several sequels and it is definitely a series that I would recommend to my students.

No comments:

Post a Comment