In 1935, when Moose Flanagan's father gets a job as electrician and guard at Alcatraz prison, the family moves to the twelve-acre rock island in the middle of San Francisco Bay, joining the other families and kids who live there, not to mention the prisoners, including gangster Al Capone. Moose may be only 12, but he's already 5' 11 1/2" tall. His older sister, Natalie has something terribly wrong with her. She's not stupid. If you tell her your birthday, she can tell you what day of the week you were born. She can multiply 487 times 6,421 in her head. But Natalie lives in her own world with what we now, many years later, recognize as severe autism. Their parents are planning to send her to a new residential school for kids with special problems, hoping at last they’ve found a place that can help her. Moose will be going to school in San Francisco with Piper, the warden's high-spirited troublemaking daughter. The tough-talking warden warns Moose, "Don't go shooting your mouth off about Al Capone." And he wouldn't, really. But Piper has a new scheme to try out on her classmates, and she ropes in Moose to help her. Wouldn't you pay Piper 5¢ to get one of your shirts laundered by Al Capone and the other famous cons in the Alcatraz prison laundry?
A glorious blend of comedy and drama, this utterly original Newbery Honor winner will get kids talking about peer pressure, autism, and, of course, Alcatraz and its famous inhabitants. Find out more about Alcatraz and its inmates at www.alcatrazhistory.com. Looking up autism on the Internet can be daunting for children. since most of the information is aimed at adults. For an understandable explanation of autism (and other children’s health issues), children can visit www.kidshealth.com and type “autism” in the Search Bar. According to the KidsHealth website, it is “the largest and most-visited site on the Web providing doctor-approved health information about children from before birth through adolescence. Created by The Nemours Foundation's Center for Children's Health Media, the award-winning KidsHealth provides families with accurate, up-to-date, and jargon-free health information they can use.”
Reviewed by JF.
Themes: BROTHERS AND SISTERS. FAMILY LIFE. HISTORICAL FICTION. PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES.
Suggested Ages: 10 and Up