Monday, February 8, 2010

Al Capone Shines My Shoes

Al Capone Shines My Shoes
Gennifer Choldenko

"In the visitor's section I see Mae Capone holding her yellow rose across her lap.  Doc Ollie's old sister with her practical shoes has placed the rose behind her ear, like she's a flamenco dancer.  And there's Bea Trixle talking to Mrs. Caconi, holding the rose as if it is made of glass.  It's amazing the power of a few stupid flowers.  Simply amazing."

Al Capone Shines My Shoes is Gennifer Choldenko's amazing follow up to Al Capone Does My Shirts.  It is historical fiction narrated by an 8th grade boy, Moose.  Moose's dad is an electrician and guard on Alcatraz in 1935.  Moose and his family live on Alcatraz with the cons and other guard's families. 

In Al Capone Does My Shirts Moose reaches out to the famed crime boss for a favor.  Which he grants - YIKES!  And now for the payback in Al Capone Shines My Shoes

Moose is a very likable 8th grade boy.  Which can be hard to do.  Actually, it's 7th grade boys that are not so likable - too goofy.  8th grade boys are usually fun.  Moose is fun.  He's worried about a lot of things normal 8th grade boys usually don't have to worry about.  Like a sister who thinks differently.  But he's also worried about the usual 8th grade things - girls and friends and keeping everyone happy.  Moose is a people pleaser and I can relate.

As a teacher, I really liked the Author's Note at the end.  It think it's important in historical fiction to help younger readers distinguish between facts and the author's imagination.  Gennifer Choldenko does a great job at this.  And you get to know more about her.  Another rarity. 

I really did love this book.  Almost as much as I loved Al Capone Does My Shirts.   You don't have to have read Al Capone Does My Shirts to enjoy Al Capone Shines My Shoes but you'll want to find it afterward.   I enjoy Gennifer Choldenko's work.  She has another great book, I love: If A Tree Falls at Lunch Period.  Plus, I feel a certain kinship we both have oddly spelled ordinary names. 

Recommendation:  any middle schooler, especially history buffs.  Boys can relate to Moose and girls will get a glimpse inside a boy's mind. 
Length: 270 pages including Author's Note
Rating: Love It!

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