I was immediately captivated by the title Al Capone Does My Shirts. However, while the title is an excellent fit for the story, it led me to expect an entirely different type of book. I expected kids mixed up with gangsters or some other sort of hilarity. Instead, Al Capone Does My Shirts is a much deeper and more profound work of historical fiction placed against the backdrop of the Depression and Alcatraz. This book was assigned to my ten-year-old daughter and I think she can appreciate it, but readers of her age would need a background on Alcatraz, Al Capone, and the culture of the time period.
Moose Flanigan and his family move to the island of Alcatraz where his father works double shifts as an electrician and prison guard. They make the move in an attempt to earn enough to send his mentally handicapped sister Natalie to a special school in San Francisco. When that plan fails, Moose is overwhelmed with the responsibility of watching his sister. At the same time, he struggles to make new friends and avoid involvement in the troublesome schemes of the prison warden's daughter.
Al Capone Does My Shirts is an interesting story based on the lives of families who lived and worked on Alcatraz during its operation. It also deals with the trials of mental disabilities and the way it affects families. The book is written with compassion, sensitivity and great insight, but would be a good one to discuss with young readers as they read.