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Al Capone does my shirts ISBN: 9780747568988
Choldenko, Gennifer
Published by Bloomsbury, 2004
A truly unusual, superb novel, set on the prison island of Alcatraz near San Francisco in 1935 - a time when Al Capone was its best known inmate. Moose Flanagan, 13, his mum and dad and his 16 year old autistic sister, Natalie, live on the island, his dad having been made a warden there. In an afterward, the author explains in detail the historical context and much about the families who lived there to service the convicts. In a day in which autism was not a recognised condition, Natalie is seen as 'a little unusual', and their mother is desperate to improve her. In a misguided effort to get Nat into a special school, she pretends she is only 10. It is Moose who does much of the looking after of Natalie, and who loves her dearly, who makes his parents understand that she is growing up after an incident when he finds Nat holding hands with a convict. Her emerging sexuality and Moose's realisation of it are handled beautifully, and Nat's inclusion in many of the island children's adventures and activities, as well as some special help she gets, do bring about some changes in her behaviour. This is a powerful story, full of fascinating detail about life on 'the rock' and with characters that step off the pages. An excellent choice for young people living with an autistic sibling. A sequel is also available: Al Capone shines my shoes (ISBN: 9781408801550).
Age: 11+