Study Guide

Al Capone Does My Shirts Plot Analysis

By Gennifer Choldenko

Plot Analysis


An Exclusive Island Getaway (But Not Really)

It all starts when Moose moves to this little place called Alcatraz.

Unlike other islands, Alcatraz is pretty much a huge prison, filled with the most dangerous men around. Moose misses his old friends and feels a little unsafe sharing this tiny home with such dangerous people. He also has an autistic sister named Natalie, who needs to be watched to make sure she stays safe. As the stage is set for this book, the scene is pretty bleak.

Rising Action

Keep Your Friends Close and Keep Your Enemies Closer

Turns out that the criminals are the least of Moose's worries on the island. As Moose starts making friends with the few other kids on the island (whose parents work in the prison), he gets to know Piper, the warden's daughter. More frenemy than friend, Piper has all sorts of schemes to keep them busy on the island. Are any of them safe? Nope. But she drags Moose along every chance she gets.

Making things even more complicated for Moose is the fact that Natalie comes home from school where she wasn't adjusting well. So now Moose has the responsibility of babysitting her. This definitely doesn't bode well for the adventures his friends are planning.


Eye on the Target (and off of His Sister)

Moose is on a mission to find a convict baseball for his friend Scout. It's a long story, but what it boils down to is a competition between Moose and Piper to see who can get Scout that ball first. Only trouble is, while Moose is hunting through the area outside the prison wall, unbeknownst to him, Natalie befriends a convict. And by befriends, we mean they're holding hands and acting like old buddies. This could be really dangerous for Natalie. After faking danger for all this time—you know, because he lives on Alcatraz, Moose has a serious situation on his hands.

Falling Action

Where There's a Will…

Moose keeps Natalie indoors after the incident with the con (whose name is Onion, by the way). In the meantime, Natalie fails her second interview to get into the Esther P. Marinoff School, which the family has been hoping will help her get the care and support she needs. Moose is desperate to help, so on a wild whim, he decides to write a letter to Alcatraz's most famous convict: Al Capone. Maybe Capone can use his connections to get Natalie into school…


… There is a Way

Shortly after Moose sends his letter, Natalie is accepted into the Esther P. Marinoff School. Everyone is happy and proud of her, of course, but it seems this isn't entirely Natalie's doing. As the book ends, Moose finds a mysterious note rolled into a shirt that he gets back from the prison laundry. Written on it is one word: "Done." Looks like somebody's letter didn't go unnoticed.

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