Book Review – Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko
June 8, 2015
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.
I decided to celebrate the last day of school by posting a review of the last book that I read for work this year. I have heard about this one for a couple years now, and I was totally intrigued. Here are my thoughts:
On the Plus Side:
- I’ve always had a fascination with Alcatraz, especially since my visit there last fall, and I loved that this book was set there.
- I loved the references to actual convicts housed at Alcatraz during this time period, and I love hearing some of their background stories.
- While on my tour at Alcatraz, I heard about the families that lived on the island when someone in the family worked there, and I loved reading a novel with the POV of the children living on the island. It gives you a completely different look at how things functioned on a daily basis.
- I also enjoyed that the novel featured a child with autism before autism was a diagnosis. I can only imagine how difficult life was for the families of these children when there was no understanding and very little support available.
- Choldenko did a great job of developing a wide cast of characters, representing so many different factions of people in an interesting setting during the Great Depression. I think everyone will gain a greater understanding of life during this time period as well as an understanding of a very unconventional lifestyle. I also think you will discover the desperate measures some people resorted to in order to provide for their families during this period of time.
- I think this is a great introduction to Alcatraz for middle grade readers. I also think they can relate to the topic of autism, and how much things have changed over the years.
On the Minus Side:
- There really were no minuses for me.
I highly recommend this quick read if you are looking for an interesting historical fiction novel set at Alcatraz. I’m hoping to actually pick up one of the memoirs out there written by someone who actually lived on the island because she had a family member who worked there. I’ll keep you posted!
What books do you recommend on Alcatraz?