(Love the covers to these books! True to the plot, with period-invoking font.)
In Al Capone Does My Shirts, Moose writes a letter to Al Capone asking for assistance. Even though he's never met Al Capone, Moose believes he can use his influence to get his sister Natalie into a special boarding school in San Francisco. Shortly after, Moose's family receives word that Natalie has been accepted to the Esther P. Marinoff school. And then at the beginning of Al Capone Shines My Shoes, Moose receives a note in his laundry, unsigned, that simply says "Done." What does it mean? And what favor will Al Capone want in return from Moose?
While Al Capone Shines My Shoes definitely still had some laugh-out-loud moments, I felt that it had a bit more weight and depth to the plot and character development than in Al Capone Does My Shirts. Moose and his family are still living on Alcatraz, of course, but where there was a separation between Moose and the cons in the first book, they brush paths more often in this book. And this is just as dangerous as you would imagine. There is a scene (don't worry, it's not a spoiler) where Moose and his father are talking about the cons, and how to interact with them. Moose's dad does such an excellent job of explaining how they are still human beings, and should be greeted in a respectful way, but that Moose needs to understand to never, ever trust them. They are still prisoners. And that's not the only grounding conversation between the adults and kids in this book. The author does an absolutely fantastic job of having the adults in the books impart advice to the kids, and the kids having growing-up "aha" moments without ever sounding stilted or forced.
There's also a lot more intense action in Al Capone Shines My Shoes vs. the first book. There were two scenes in the book where I really didn't want to stop the narration without finding out the outcome! I love that the setting of the books (1930s) allows the kids a little more freedom and a lot more responsibility than if there was a more contemporary setting. The kids all hang out together, just making sure they're home in time for dinner. At one point a group of them even take the ferry over to San Francisco unsupervised, which is necessary to the plot. All of the kids handle the extra responsibilities well, too. Moose is often asked to watch his autistic older sister, and he always takes this seriously, never leaving her unattended or in danger, and often sacrificing his own entertainment to spend hours counting with her.
Another bonus to this book that I much appreciated was the often-complicated friendship growth between different characters. The reader sees a very real jealousy develop between Moose's on-island best friend and his San Francisco best friend. The author writes these scenes so well; your heart will go out to the boys as they figure out where they all belong in each other's lives. It's not a perfect journey, but they get there, and I love that. Moose is also growing up and is nearly thirteen. He is definitely "noticing" Annie and Piper, and they're "noticing" him. The books remain very PG, but it's so sweet to see those relationships working themselves out.
I listened to Al Capone Shines My Shoes on CD. The narrator remains the same, Kirby Heyborne, and he continues to do a great job bringing Moose and the other residents of Alcatraz to life.
*I checked out my copy of Al Capone Shines My Shoes from my local library.