Gennifer Choldenko is an American writer, a winner of Newbery Honour Award and the author of many popular books for teenagers, children and young adults. Gennifer Choldenko’s novel called “Al Capone Does My Shirts” consists of many deep themes and stories, for an attentive reader this work would be extremely exciting to explore, as the author brings out many interesting and important social topics in it. The events described in the novel take place during the period of the Great Depression, at the Alcatraz Island, when Alcatraz was a federal prison for many well known criminals (Al Capone Does my Shirts, par. 7).
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The main themes that are being raised in the novel are the problem of adjustment to a new society, the difficulties a family has to face having a mentally disabled child, eternal teenage urge for freedom, independence and curiosity for breaking the rules, first attraction between two adolescents of opposite sex, the ability of bad people create positive impacts. After finishing this novel I have come to several conclusions. One of them is that a human being, especially a young one, is able to adjust to many changes. Even if in the beginning the changes are unpleasant and the person rejects them, eventually they will adopt the new lifestyle and embrace all aspects of it. Another conclusion that came to my mind is that if a person or group of people is persistent and keeps trying to achieve a certain goal, the goal will be achieved, besides, a group effort is always better and more effective. The characters of “Al Capone Does My Shirts” learn to always stick together (Masanz, par. 5).
The ending of the story suggests more than one outcome. The author creates a mystery and, apparently, wants the readers to make up their own minds about what exactly helped solve the problem with Natalie’s special school, so the answer to this question is left hidden. To my mind, each type of readers will make own conclusions about the novel’s ending. I personally want to believe that Al Capone has pulled some strings to assist with the creation of a chance for Nat to become a student of a new program for special children of older age.
I certainly was pleased with the conclusion – the long-term mission of the whole family was accomplished, the autistic daughter went to a school to learn how to be more like other children, which gives Moose a chance to finally focus on doing things he was fond of, like playing baseball, for example, Helen’s depression that started to influence her health negatively was resolved.
The only topic I would like to see more closure for is the relationship between Moose and his mother. The woman has been constantly focused on thinking about Natalie’s needs and has slowly turned her son into a mixture of a guardian, a babysitter, a therapist and a social worker for his disabled sister. To my mind, a twelve year old child should have a chance to enjoy his time with friends, playing games and being mischievous. Besides, there is a chance that the misfortune with Natalie’s entering the school was the mother’s fault.
The main character of the book is Mathew “Moose” Flanagan, an adolescent boy torn away from his home, his friends and granny, in order to help his autistic sister Nat enter a school for disabled children. Moose is unhappy about the changes; he misses the way things used to be back in Santa Monica. Eventually he accepts his duty to watch Natalie all the time and this makes him a mature and generous person even in his young age.
He is good at communication with his sister, he understands her, when she becomes friends with one of the Alcatraz prisoners, Moose allows her to communicate with him under his watch, even though he does not approve of such friendship. He helps Natalie become accepted by other children. By the end of the novel Moose adjusts to his new life at the Island, fits into the new group of friends, starts to understand the importance of idea that Natalie should communicate with other children, and when his mother falls into a depression, becomes decisive and puts into practice idea to ask for Al Capone’s help for his sister.
There are connections the novel “Al Capone Does my Shirts” has with the contents of different school subjects. The novel’s Math element is present in the scenes when Moose asks his sister to count buttons or rocks. This occupation calms her down and keeps her busy and concentrated for a while. At some point Piper engages Natalie into counting and dividing the money she earned putting into practice her prison laundry scheme. Social Studies aspect is represented by Natalie’s therapist Carrie Kelly, who knows a lot about psychology and gives Moose advice to take his sister out more in order to let her socialise with other children. Helen represents Fine Arts, as she is a teacher of music; she also does a lot of reading, trying to find a place in Marinoff School for Natalie. Besides, there are many scenes related to Physical Education. These are all scenes where the children are involved into baseball games.
Al Capone Does my Shirts. HistoricalFictionBookReviews4. 2014. Web.
Masanz, Derrick. Al Capone Does my Shirts. 2014. Web.