Rummanah Aasi
  After working with students for quite some time I have realized that they are hesitant to go anywhere near historical fiction. They assume that once they hear it is about history they equate the book to their boring history textbooks. I'm always on the look out for historical fiction that don't really read as one. In other words where there is other things happening in the book in which I can entice my reluctant readers with so that the historical aspects don't really stick out and just become part of the story. The Tales from Alcatraz series is a perfect example where there is enough coming of age story, intrigue, and humor to keep the reader's attention.

Description: It's 1935. Moose Flanagan lives on Alcatraz with his family, the other families of the guards, and a few hundred no-name hit men, con men, mad dog murderers and a handful of bank robbers too. And one of those cons has just done him a big favor.
  You see, Moose has never met Al Capone, but a few weeks ago Moose wrote a letter to him asking him to use his influence to get his sister, Natalie, into a school she desperately needs in San Francisco. After Natalie got accepted, a note appeared in Moose?s freshly laundered shirt that said: Done.
  As this book begins, Moose discovers a new note. This one says: Your turn. Is it really from Capone? What does it mean? Moose can't risk anything that might get his dad fired. But how can he ignore Al Capone?

Review: Al Capone Shines My Shoes is a great sequel to the Newbery Honor-winning Al Capone Does My Shirts and could be read as a standalone. I think in order to become a bit more comfortable with the setting and the book's subplots you may want to read the first book. 
  In the first book Moose's autistic sister, Natalie, is attending a special school in San Franciscodue to strings presumably pulled by Al Capone, the notorious mobster. Moose assumed he was off the hook until he receives a note through the prison laundry, stating, "Your turn." In addition to the fear that he now owes a con and struggling with his conscious, he also needs to focus on negotiating the constantly shifting friendships, crushes, and grudges among his friends at school and on Alcatraz, where he lives. 
  The historical details of daily life on Alcatraz in 1935 which is also expanded upon in the author's note at the end of the book really brings the book to life. The children living in Alcatraz maintain a titillated fascination with the convicts, most especially with the notorious Al Capone. I had no idea that the well-behaved convicts who, because of the difficult economic times, are allowed to do manual labor for the island's civilians. 
  The pace and plot for the book never got boring as we try to figure out if Moose's predicament in assisting Al Capone is legitimate or not. His personal mystery leads to other questions and mysteries among the convicts, and it's up to the children (especially Natalie) to foil a dangerous escape plan.    Moose is a very likable character. He cares deeply for his sister and protects her from the other bullies who don't seem to understand her autism. I also liked how Natalie was important to the plot and not just there for the sake of being there. 

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for strong Grade 4 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Al Capone Does My Homework (Tales from Alcatraz #3)
3 Responses
  1. I remember reading the review for the first one. This sounds like a good series for young boys, and I like the bond between the siblings, especially since one is autistic.

  2. This sounds interesting. I would be curious about the surroundings. Hm... I think Heidi is right and this sounds perfect for some cousins of mine.

  3. My favourite historical fiction books are those where the historical aspects are interwoven subtly throughout the plot. It's always those books that make me curious about the historical time period the book is discussing and cause me to Google some more details.

    To be honest, I don't know much about Alcatraz. But, reading this one sounds like a good way to learn more about it.

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