Study Guide

Al Capone Does My Shirts Love

By Gennifer Choldenko


I've never been good at fooling Natalie. She knows me too well. (1.17)

Moose and Natalie have always had a special connection. They take care of each other, and even though her mind doesn't work the same way as others, Natalie really loves her brother. She has an intuition about what he's thinking—even when Moose tries to keep his feelings to himself.

"So, not retarded. Stupid, then?" Piper asks.

"Look, could we drop this already?"

"I'm just asking a simple question," Piper says.

"Not in front of Natalie," I whisper. (3.48-51)

Moose is super protective of Natalie, which we see in action here—he won't let anyone say anything hurtful about her. It's just not happening on his watch.

I've been mad at everyone except Natalie. I always try really hard not to get angry at her. (5.23)

Moose has some pent up anger toward his family because they uprooted his life and moved him to Alcatraz. But even though he feels frustrated, he knows that he can't take it out on Natalie. He's able to control his frustration around her because he loves her.

"You'll be nice to Natalie, no matter what?"

"Promise swear to God," she says.

"Never call her names. Never tell your dad stuff about her. Treat her really kind." (12.48-50)

Moose may not be able to make others love Natalie the way her family does, but that doesn't mean he can't make sure they treat her right. When Piper wants Moose to take part in her schemes, he strikes one deal: She has to be nice to Natalie in return, take it or leave it.

I want to grab Natalie. Hold her here with me. Keep her from going down again. I just love talking to her this way. And then the thought occurs to me… is Mrs. Kelly helping? (23.35)

In rare moments, Moose feels like he can communicate with his sister like ordinary siblings do. When this happens, he feels really sad because he knows it won't last. He hopes that this new therapist, Mrs. Kelly, is helping Natalie to get better…

We go to the parade grounds. Natalie gets on the swings. There's a mom there with her four-year-old son. She pushes him. I push Natalie. She's too big and too old for this. Her hips are too large for the seat. I ignore this. I ignore them. She can pump herself, but I know she prefers to have my push. (31.1)

Here's an example of an extra step that Moose takes to show his love for his sister: He doesn't let himself get embarrassed by the fact that she's way too big to be pushed on a swing. Sure, he could probably let her try to push herself, but it makes her happy to have Moose push her. And because he loves his sister, he doesn't care what other people think.

My father takes a sip of his beer. "Things matter more to your mother than they do to me."

"Everything?" I ask. I'm watching him now. Searching his golden brown eyes.

"Everything… except you." My father bites his lip. The tears well up. He turns away and busies himself tugging the rug back in place. (31.12-14)

Mr. Flanagan is a man of few words, but his tears speak a thousand. Here we see a rare father-son moment between Moose and his dad where, without saying much, his dad admits how much he loves his son. Maybe he doesn't always show it like he should, but he loves his son all the same.

"You did it because you believed in your heart it was the right thing to do. You were doing what you thought would help your sister." She stops. Tears spill down her face.

"I can't imagine how I could ask for anything more from you. I can't imagine how I could." (36.24-25)

Mrs. Flanagan finally realizes that Moose wasn't trying to start a fight by asserting himself about Natalie's needs—he was standing up to protect the sister he loves, even if it meant upsetting his mom. You go, Moose.

"And, Moose? There's something I wanted to tell you too, dear. When Natalie and I are working together and I see I'm starting to lose her, I always say, 'What do you think Moose is doing right now?' And lately, she's been able to stay with me. […] I thought you might like to know how important you are to her." (37.18)

Moose loves Natalie so much that he calls her therapist to thank her for helping Natalie. What he hears back proves Natalie loves him, too: One of the only ways Dr. Kelly is able to hold Natalie's attention is by asking about her brother. He's so important to her that mentioning Moose helps Natalie stay focused and present. Yay.

Now I understand. When you love someone, you know to try things even if they don't make sense to anyone else. (37.22)

With this, Moose takes matters into his own hands around Natalie and her schooling. He'll try anything he can think of to help his sister get to where she needs to be, including paying a visit to the warden and asking a notorious convict to pull some strings on Natalie's behalf.

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