I first heard about Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko at a BER conference targeted at matching boys with books. I remembered it book talked as a humorous, fun book focusing on twelve year old Moose's experience of moving to Alcatraz.
An aspect of the book that I was not expecting was Moose's sister. Looking back to the information on the cover it does allude to Moose's sister who is "not like other kids" but I had no idea that this would be a big part of the book, and that it would be a serious component balancing out the humorous sides. At the end of the book, the author notes that his sister's character was inspired by her own sister who had a severe form of autism, although she is never referred to as being autistic in the book because autism was not identified at the time period of the book's setting. Moose also has to deal with the warden's daughter who is always up to a scheme and trying to get the other island kids involved. I loved how all the different plots in the book wove together well to build up to the ending.
I am going to recommend this book to my student who I was having a hard time suggesting a book to that he wanted to read. I especially thought the first couple of pages did a great job of engaging the reader. I know my student would be fascinated with the concept of living on Alcatraz in 1935 with hard core criminals as neighbors. It made me want to do further research about Alcatraz and Al Capone.