Written by Gennifer Choldenko, Al Capone Does My Shirts tells the story of Moose Flanagan and his family who move to Alcatraz Island where his father has gotten a job. The year is 1935, and Alcatraz is a federal prison housing the meanest criminals. The move comes in the middle of the school year because Moose’s autistic sister Natalie has been accepted into a special school, the Esther P. Marinoff School. Dad has a job as a guard/electrician on Alcatraz, and Mom is going to teach piano lessons in San Francisco.
Moose makes friends with a boy named Scout in school. Scout’s friends play baseball on Mondays. During Moose’s first game, he makes a double play. He feels he can make friends and belong in his new home. Natalie gets kicked out of the school after less than 24 hours. This means that Moose must be her caregiver in the afternoons after school – no more baseball games for Moose.
Soon, Moose makes friends with the other kids living on Alcatraz. Piper, the warden’s daughter, loves trouble. She comes up with a scheme to earn money by telling all the kids in seventh grade that they can have their clothes laundered by Al Capone for pennies, nickels, and dimes. She gets Moose to talk up the scheme at school to drum up more business. The warden gets a letter from an angry parent about the scheme. The kids get into trouble with the warden. Even Moose finds himself in trouble.
After the laundry scheme, Moose spends all his time with Natalie, but he wants to get Scout back as a friend. To do this, Moose spends hours every afternoon hunting for a convict baseball that may have been hit over the fence. Will he get into more trouble by being around convicts?
Your students will love reading this fantastic book!
Al Capone Does My Shirts Activities
Book Unit Samples
You will find the following in this novel study sample:
- Vocabulary Practice for Chapters 1-2
- Comprehension Questions for Chapters 1-2
- Constructed Response Question – Setting
Teaching Idea #1 – Bump Games
These two Bump Games cover important reading skills: using context clues and figurative language. The sentences used to practice these skills are lines from the novel. Both full color and black-lined versions are provided in this print-and-go activity. Use games in small groups for a fun interactive activity.
Teaching Idea #2 – On the Web
Teaching Idea #3 – Series
After reading Al Capone Does my Shirts, be sure to introduce students to its sequels.
- 2011 – Al Capone Shines My Shoes
- 2014 – Al Capone Does My Homework
- 2018 – Al Capone Throws Me a Curve
Each book in the series features Moose Flanagan and his sister Natalie. All books in the story take place on Alcatraz Island in the 1930s where the siblings meet notorious criminals.