Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Al Capone Ate My Shorts: Kids on Alcatraz

Living on Alcatraz doesn't quite become routine for Moose Flanagan, even though Al Capone Shines My Shoes is Gennifer Choldenko's second book on the island. The convicts are too spooky, even the supposedly tame ones the warden has doing his household chores. And the danger of jeopardising his father's job as a prison guard weighs on the whole family; times are tough in this depression era.

A lot of historical detail is slipped into this book, but the emphasis stayed firmly on Moose and his problems, not on showcasing an interesting piece of history. Moose's sister seems to have autism, but that's not a diagnosis yet, and the people around her vary in their acceptance of her strangeness. Moose himself realizes how difficult she makes things and how much attention she siphons from their parents, but he also loves her and wrestles with guilt over his resentment.

Moose likes to please people, an attitude I share. If a friend is interested in something, I'll try to muster up some interest as well, in support. To Moose's astonishment (and my inner sympathy), his friends find this approach two-faced, especially when added to his googly-eyes over the spoiled and vindictive (but pretty!) daughter of the warden. There's baseball tension, pressure from Al Capone who may have helped get Moose's sister into the special school, and general kid politics to keep me interested. B+


Brimful Curiosities said...

I read this one over the holiday break and plan to review it soon. All the info about Alcatraz is astonishing. I didn't know very much about the island before reading the book. Never realized that the prison guard's families lived there. What a creative way to introduce a little history to middle readers.

Shelf Elf said...

This one has been on my list for such a long time. I was a fan of book one. It's interesting to me the number of kids today who know about Alcatraz, without having read any history about the place. Thanks for reminding me to keep this one on the TBR pile! Thanks also for the specific character insights.

mad said...

This one's been on my list for ages and ages, too. Perhaps time to move it to the top!!

Camille said...

This is a sequel that was just as good as the first one.
I really enjoyed it.