Last spring I got to meet and hear Gennifer Choldenko when she visited our area. I wish I had my camera with me so I could post the picture I had taken with her, but that will have to wait. At that time we were still awaiting the release of Al Capone Shines My Shoes, the second of a planned trilogy. I had already read Al Capone Does My Shirts and loved it. Set on Alcatraz Island in 1935 the whole concept of civilians - children especially- living on Alcatraz just amazed me. I am still very intrigued by those people who grew up in this environment.
Since I read the first book so long ago, it took me a bit to remember more than just the general outline of the story when I started Al Capone Shines My Shoes, but once I got started, I was totally involved in the plot again.
Moose and his gang of friends are still on Alcatraz and still trying to spot different prisoners - especially the infamous Al Capone. Moose's sister, Natalie, has just started school off the island - a place that will help her with her special needs. Moose attributes Natalie's acceptance into this school to Capone himself, as he receives some short notes from someone inside the prison in his clean laundry. Some special visitors bring some added excitement to the island: Capone's wife, Mae, as well as J. Edgar Hoover and Elliot Ness. Piper is still the same annoying, spoiled girl she was in the first installment, but Choldenko humanizes her a bit more: Piper's mother almost dies from complications of pregnancy, and it is through this horror that we can see a kinder side of Piper. The book ends with a dramatic prison escape that kept me wanting to read more and find the resolution quickly.
Choldenko's notes about Alcatraz and the research she has done were also very interesting. Some of these points she touched upon when I heard her speak. My fifth graders will be ecstatic that I now have this book to circulate in the library, and I am waiting anxiously for the third installment.
Visit Gennifer Choldenko's website.