Have you ever read the first couple of pages of a sequel, smiled to yourself and felt like you had come home again? Well, when I cracked open Al Capone Shines My Shoes I was immediately transported back to Choldenko's world of Alcatraz and into the Flannagan's apartment.
We pick up right where we last let off. Natalie is getting ready to head into San Fransisco to go to the Esther P. Marinoff School. Moose knows that one of the only reasons that she is going is that he asks inmate #85 (also known as Al Capone) to help him get her in. Moose is still confused as to why #85 would help him. Moose has been thinking about this when he heads over to Annie's place. When he gets there, Annie is looking peculiar, and she tells Moose that she got his laundry...and that there was a note in the pocket of his shirt. The note simply says, Your turn. By the way, the con who does the Flannagan's laundry is #85. What can Capone mean?
As if Moose didn't have enough to worry about, Piper is acting out, Mr. Flannagan gets put on probation, Scout seems to be eyeing up Piper, Jimmy is mad at Moose, and staying out of Darby's way is getting harder and harder. Even baseball, which used to make Moose feel better, is getting all political with Annie refusing to play with Moose until he tells about the note in his laundry. Moose is so stressed he is breaking out in hives and itching to beat the band.
Gennifer Choldenko is in her element in this story. It's so masterfully told that it seems effortless and completely believable. The cast of characters from children to adults are spot on and coexist in such a way that readers will feel like they know each and every one of them. Moose's growing pains are palpable, and his need to please will have you reading through your fingers, after-school-special-style. Simply delightful, fans of Al Capone Does My Shirt will be pleased, and new readers can easily pick up the plot and will enjoy this story as well.