Al Capone Shines My Shoes: A Tale from Alcatraz, Book 2

Book review by
Barbara Lawrence, Common Sense Media
Al Capone Shines My Shoes: A Tale from Alcatraz, Book 2 Book Poster Image
Moose's ties to Al Capone deepen in engaging sequel.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Like the first book, Al Capone Does My Shirts packages historical facts and details of life on "The Rock" in a great read. It's historical fiction at its best, as characters go about their daily lives, playing baseball, going to school, and making friends. The story gives the reader insight into living on Alcatraz as well as the economic hard times of the Great Depression. Find interesting historical notes at the end of the book, as well as on the author's website, which is filled with facts about Alcatraz and Al Capone.

Positive Messages

Although the kids on Alcatraz are very different from each other and don't always get along, there's a strong sense of community, necessary when you live on an island. Characters forgive, give second chances, and take care of each other, especially when things get rough. As one of the moms says, "We're a family here on Alcatraz and that's what families do."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Moose is a good kid who knows the rules and tries to obey them, but the complexity of life often gets in the way. For example, is it OK to lie to protect your father's job? Moose's friends tell him he's motivated by wanting to be liked by everyone, but this often gets him in trouble. His struggles will appeal to teens who are beginning to realize that doing what is right is not the same as being good. Moose's autistic sister, Natalie faces a lot of prejudice, yet her innate intelligence and special gifts come through and she plays a key role how things turn out. 


As in Al Capone Does My Shirts, violence is suggested but not seen. The kids are threatened by some of the inmates. In the end, no one is actually hurt, but it's tense and scary. There's talk of the violent pasts of the gangsters who now reside on Alcatraz. 


Moose has mild sexual thoughts about Piper, the warden's daughter. There's a lot of discussion among the kids about crushes and girls who are "lookers" vs. those who are not. Moose and Piper meet in secret to kiss. All in all, the discussions give the reader good insight into flirting, crushes, and attraction.


Some mild swearing appropriate to the times, such as telling someone he's "full of crap."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

No actual drinking, but the warden's daughter, always stirring the pot, falsely accuses Moose's dad and another guard of drinking on the job, which jeopardizes their employment on Alcatraz. In one scene, the doctor suggests giving whiskey and milk to calm a baby. 

What parents need to know

Parent need to know that Al Capone Shines My Shoes is an engaging sequel to Gennifer Choldenko's Newbery Honor-winning Al Capone Does My Shirts, about seventh grader Moose Flanagan and his family, who live on Alcatraz Island along with other families working for the famous prison during the Great Depression. The young characters are faced with many situations where they must choose right from wrong, but the choices are not all that clear. The older kids start to see differences between boys and girls as well as the effect of crushes on how boys and girls behave. There's some kissing, and some good insight and frank boy-talk about girls' looks, which ultimately hurts some feelings. Like the first book in the trilogy, the plot involves main character Moose's autistic sister.

User Reviews

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Kid, 11 years old August 11, 2013

Definitely a Must-Read! Bravo! a Fantastic Sequel

Great book well worth reading- it has an engaging plot and weaves into it showing acceptance (since a main character is autistic). However. As the title might s... Continue reading

What's the story?

Set on Alcatraz in 1935, AL CAPONE SHINES MY SHOES, takes place where the first book in the trilogy, Al Capone Does My Shirts, left off. Al Capone has pulled strings to get Moose's autistic sister into a special school. Now Moose has to pay back the famous gangster for the favor. Moose continues to navigate the roads of friendships and girls while trying to be true to his family. The backdrop of the famous prison and gangsters make for an intriguing setting. Although the families do not interact with the harden criminals, the kids do have interactions with "pass-men" -- well-behaved convicts who do work for the families. This leads to excitement as well as danger for Moose and his friends.

Is it any good?

Author Gennifer Choldenko has hit a perfect balance with this coming-of-age story set against the historical backdrop of the famous prison with its infamous inmates. Moose's involvement with Al Capone deepens as he now must pay him back for a favor. This and other interactions with "pass-men" keep tensions high and make for an exciting read. A daring escape attempt will keep readers turning the pages. Moose and the other characters are likeable and well drawn. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how girls' looks are perceived by boys. Scout categorizes all girls as either "lookers," "okey-dokeys," or "aunties." How does the way boys view girls affect how girls think of themselves and their body image?  

  • How do you think Al Capone Shines My Shoes compares with the first book in the trilogy?

  • Have you ever been attracted to someone you don't like? What can you do about those feelings? Our article "Kids and Crushes, Idols, and Obsessions" can give parents ideas for discussion with their kids.

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history and coming-of-age novels

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