Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Al Capone Shines My Shoes

By Gennifer Choldenko

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2009

$16.99, ages 10 and up

Twelve-year-old Moose Flanagan wants to believe he did the wrong thing for the right reason by asking mobster Al Capone to pull strings so his sister Natalie could go to an elite school for autism.

But now Capone expects Moose to return the favor and all Moose can think about is what Capone will do if he doesn't come through -- get Natalie kicked out of school or worse, send a hit man after him.

In this riveting sequel to the Newberry Honor-winning Al Capone Does My Shirts, Moose learns that even on Alcatraz where there are rules for everything it's not always easy to tell right from wrong and whether prisoners are as bad or good as they seem.

It's been six months since Moose's family moved to the prison island so his dad could take a job as security guard and electrician, and Natalie could get help for her autism. Moose has gotten used having inmates nearby; Seven Fingers, an ax murderer, is brought over to do their plumbing, Capone and 30 other no-name criminals tend to their laundry and Buddy Boy, a con artist, works as houseboy at the warden's mansion. And yet Moose is more nervous than ever, now that Capone has gotten Natalie into the Ester P. Marinoff. As payback, Capone expects Moose to bring his wife Mae roses when she comes over on the ferry. Moose has no idea how to pull that off and breaks out in hives with worry. He only hopes Capone won't hold him to the favor, but when Moose is invited into the cell house where Capone is shining shoes for guards, Capone lifts all doubt.

And that's only the beginning of Moose's troubles. Soon, Jimmy, his best friend on Alcatraz, and the warden's daughter Piper, the girl he's sweet on, are mad at Moose and he doesn't know why. His dad and Mr. Mattaman have been falsely accused of drinking on guard duty and put on probation. And now Moose and his friends have found a bar spreader in Natalie's luggage and are trying to figure out how to get rid of it.

What happens next will have readers at the edge of their seats, as Moose learns that sometimes, even on a prison island, making trouble is the right thing to do.

Even more enjoyable than the first book, this exciting sequel leaves you hoping that Choldenko has enough housework to keep Capone busy for another book or two. Perhaps Capone can oil Moose's baseball mitt? Or bake him up a plate of cannolis?

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