Al Capone Does My Shirts: A Tale from Alcatraz by Gennifer Choldenko is an award winning novel set during the Great Depression in 1935. It's about 12-year-old Moose Flanagan and his sister Natalie, who has autism. When their father gets a job as an electrician on Alcatraz, the family moves there and the siblings have to adjust to living on an island that houses some of the most dangerous criminals in the world!
Students can create a plot diagram for Al Capone Does My Shirts and visualize major turning points in the novel such as the Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS
EXPOSITION / CONFLICT
Al Capone Does My Shirts: A Tale from Alcatraz by Gennifer Choldenko is set during the Great Depression in 1935. When their father gets a job as an electrician on Alcatraz, 12-year-old Moose and his family move there and the siblings have to adjust to living on an island that houses some of the most dangerous criminals in the world!
CLIMAX / TURNING POINT
Moose is not thrilled about moving and misses his old home and friends. He has always been close with Natalie and understands the challenges caused by her autism. Natalie's autism affects how she experiences the world. Natalie's mother is desperate to get her into the Esther P. Marinoff School which is known for helping people with autism. However, in order to get in, Natalie needs to improve some of her behaviors and communication skills.
Happy 10th Birthday, Natalie!
Moose watches Natalie after school and brings her everywhere he goes while their mother works. This frustrates Moose as he is trying to make friends and wants to play baseball. But, he is loyal towards Natalie and does what he's told. Other kids live on Alcatraz, like the warden's daughter Piper, who has a penchant for breaking the rules, exaggerating to impress their classmates, and trying to make a profit telling classmates they can have their clothes washed by Al Capone!
To help mend fences with Scout, Moose looks for a real "convict baseball" to give him. Moose searches the area around the prison daily, leaving Natalie alone. One day, Moose discovers she's been spending these times alone with a convict! The convict knows him by name and gives him a baseball saying, "I know you've been looking for one." Moose can't believe he left Natalie alone to possibly be harmed by a prisoner!
Moose's worries were unfounded and the prisoner was just as nice as he seemed. Regardless, he is riddled with guilt and determined not to fail Natalie again. The family has seen improvement in Natalie and are hopeful she will pass her interview to get into the school. However, Moose discovers an age requirement that students be younger than 12 and Natalie is really 16. Mrs. Flanagan has been hiding her age and has been celebrating her 10th birthday for six years. Moose can't take the lies anymore. He tells his parents they have to be honest, believing that lies won't help Natalie in the long run.
Natalie fails the interview to get into Esther P. Marinoff and the family's hopes are dashed. Moose is determined to help Natalie even if it means breaking the law. He illegally sneaks a letter to Al Capone imploring him to use his connections to help Natalie get in. Soon after he sends the letter, Natalie is accepted! The family is overjoyed believing she will finally get the help that she needs. Moose finds a note hidden in one of his clean shirts from the laundry that simply says, "Done."