Study Guide

Al Capone Does My Shirts Friendship

By Gennifer Choldenko


Scout has the kind of hair that grows up instead of down. He has a friendly smile and everything he does, he does quickly. I don't pay much attention to what he says, but when he walks back to his seat, I see he's got a baseball glove under his desk. Within seconds, I've dipped my pen in my inkwell. Do you play ball? I write. (7.19)

Moose is feeling really lonely in a new place, so the first thing he does when he gets to school is try to make himself some friends. And that kid with a baseball glove seems like an excellent candidate…

There's nothing like a double play to make yourself a friend or two. Maybe it won't be so bad here. Not so bad at all.

When it's time to go home, we're winning, 3-2. Scout tells me they play every Monday. I can hardly wait till next week. I don't even care if my mom gets mad at me for coming home late. I don't care about anything except playing ball again. (8.52-53)

Feeling accepted by a group is the first step to making friendships. When Moose proves to the kids at school that he's good at playing baseball, they see him as a worthwhile person to be around. Score.

"Wait, wait, wait! This Jimmy guy's your brother? How come you didn't tell me you had a brother?"

Theresa cocks her head and looks at me cross-eyed. "Because."

"Because why?"

"Then you'd play with him instead of me." (9.9-12)

Theresa is probably the friendliest person on Alcatraz, and she makes it her mission to introduce herself to new people (like Moose) and welcome them. But despite her best intentions, Moose is really excited to find out that she's got a brother his age. Theresa figured this would happen—in fact, she's so anxious to make friends of her own that she tries to hide her brother from Moose.

"You get a convict baseball, you'll show it to me first, right?" Scout whispers.

"Sure." I nod.

"Will I have to pay?"

"Nope. I get one, you'll see it free and clear," I say.

"You're all right, Moose." He smiles his warm slow smile and I scoot back to my seat. (14.25-29)

Scout really wants one of those fancy convict baseballs, and he pulls the loyalty card on Moose to try to get one. Since they're such good friends, Moose will give Scout the baseball first… right, buddy old pal?

"You don't have to come," I tell Theresa. "He didn't call you."

"I have to come. Who's going to get you out of trouble?" Theresa says, walking in her two sock feet. (19.25-26)

Theresa takes friendship really seriously. When all the other kids get into trouble with the warden, Theresa comes along to defend them, no questions asked. And no time to lose, too—she doesn't even put shoes on for the occasion.

In English class Miss Bimp pairs Scout and me together for a journalism project. And just like that we're friends again. (23.1)

Friendship can be fickle, especially when you're in the seventh grade—friends can come in and out pretty quickly. Moose is happy to find out that after all the problems with baseball practice, Scout has forgiven him and now it's like nothing even happened. And all it took was them being paired together for a school project.

I want to look so I can keep an eye on her. We're getting along, Nat and I. It's peaceful to spend time with her out here. Sometimes I even tell her stuff that's bothering me. I don't know if she understands, but she's quiet like she hears. (25.2)

Moose loves his sister a lot, but it can be hard to have a friendship with her. In really rare moments, he feels like they're actually communicating with each other, getting along rather than him making sure she doesn't get into trouble. Moose knows that although it feels like she understands him, this might not be the case—but it's a comfort to pretend anyway.

Natalie is holding hands with a man convicted of some awful crime. It's so strange, so awful and so… normal. Natalie doesn't look weird. She's my older sister. A sixteen-year-old girl holding hands with a man not much older than she is.

This is terrible.

This is good. (33.81-83)

Moose is horrified by this strange friendship between Natalie and the convict. Natalie doesn't really have any relationships with anyone, including her family, so Moose isn't exactly thrilled that the only person she feels comfortable around on the planet is a convict on Alcatraz Island. What can we say? Friendships can be unlikely. Plus, here Moose sees his sister in a different light—almost as if she were an ordinary sixteen-year-old.

We stay outside for the longest time. Counting and cataloging rocks and shells. Piper and I are Nat's helpers, doing exactly what she tells us to do. I've never known Piper to take orders from anybody before, but she is now. We are a team and Nat is in charge. (34.1)

Moose and Piper have a rocky friendship—as in, most of the time they're at each other's throats. But sometimes having a common goal helps. When they're both taking care of Natalie, even Piper understands that this is an important task. And it sure is helpful for Moose to have some assistance. This is definitely a bonding moment for these two.

I knock on the Mattamans' door. Theresa answers, already in her pajamas. "Of course Natalie wants me, silly! We're friends!" she informs me when I tell her what Natalie said. (34.29)

Here we have Theresa and her loyal friendship again. When she gets invited to Natalie's birthday party, she's thrilled. And her response about them being "friends" is really touching—she looks past Natalie's differences, and is not at all surprised Natalie wants her at her party. They're friends, after all.

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