In 1935, Matthew "Moose" Flanagan and his family have moved from Santa Monica to Alcatraz Island because his dad has a new job as an electrician and guard at Alcatraz prison. Moose's sister Natalie is autistic and to help ensure that she can be admitted to the Esther P. Marinof School, the family says that she is ten, not her actual age of 16. Mrs. Flannigan believes that this school is the family's only hope, othewise Natalie will have to go to a mental institution. Unfortunately, Natalie doesn't adjust well and now Moose is her primary caretaker. Moose tries to hid Natalie because he is embarrassed by her, but it doesn't always work.
One of Moose's friends is Piper WIlliams, the warden's daughter. Like Moose, she doesn't like living on the island and is forever scheming ways to escape. She uses her position to get Moose to help her make money charging kids to get Al Capone to do their laundry.
Meanwhile the Flanagan's try to get Natalie re-admitted to the school, but they are turned down. Moose feels desperate. He's tired of being his sister's caretaker and decides to write a letter to Al Capone asking if his outside connections could help get Natalie into school. The next day, Moose finds a note in his shirt pocket that says "done." Within a few days after that, Natalie is admitted to a new branch of the Esther P. Marinoff School for older children. Does Moose have a debt to a gangster? How will he repay it?
BTSYA / Teen Reader (11):
I enjoyed this book because it was full of adventure and fun. It also related to history. Most educational books are boring and full with facts, but this one is fun. I like how the characters engage in the setting (1930s) and the history of Alcatraz.
I recommend this book for readers ages 8 to 12. It is informative enough that you can use it for for essays or assignments for school. It is fictional, so the help is limited, but it is a start.
There is something for everyone on Alcatraz Island. Despite its 1935 setting, the story is a timeless adventure told with humor and grounded in realistic family dynamics.
None. Adults who have strong feelings about an adult creating and asking a child to lie, may want to talk with their kids about this in that moment of the story.
This historical fiction story, set on Alcatraz Island, is a humorous adventure.
As our teen reviewer notes, historical fact is woven into the story. Readers unfamiliar with - or who think they know - Al Capone may want to learn more about him and/or the prison itself. At its heart, though, this is Moose's story and there are plenty of nuggets for discussion:
* What does your reader think about the family trying to lie to get Natalie into a school? Would they have done the same thing?
* What is their reaction to Moose's feelings about his sister? Should he have tried to hide her? Should he have "accepted" Piper's assessment of Onion?
* Is there such a thing as a "good prisoner?"
12 and Up
10 and Up
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer age: 11
Borrow. The story is fun to read, but unless you are going to read the whole series, you'll want to borrow it.