Thursday, November 6, 2014

Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko | Audiobook Review

I just continue to love this trilogy so much!  It is so hard to know that this is the final book about Moose and friends on Alcatraz.  Gennifer, if you're reading this:  please write more!

In this final installment of the Alcatraz trilogy, Moose's father has been promoted to Associate Warden.  This is a big deal, to go from prison electrician/guard to Associate Warden!  And he got the job over Trilby, who everyone thought was a shoo-in.  However, Piper is quick to inform Moose that he needs to help watch his dad's back:  the prisoners have a point system, and they earn points by doing things such as hitting a guard or stabbing a warden.  Now that his dad is a warden, he's got a lot more points on his head.  Then the Flanagan's apartment catches fire one night while Moose is home alone with Natalie, and many people are blaming Natalie and saying that she's a danger on the island.  Will the kids be able to figure out what actually caused the fire before the Flanagans have to leave the island?  Will Moose be able to help keep his dad out of danger?

This is definitely the most intense book of the trilogy.  When I first read Al Capone Does My Shirts, I thought this trilogy might better belong in the Juv section rather than YA, but I now see why they're YA.  Moose and his friends are thirteen or younger, but they carry a lot of responsibility.  The books are set in the 1930s, so it's not unusual for the kids to travel on the ferry to and from San Francisco for school unsupervised, or to be left home alone (with a neighbor maybe checking in) on the occasional evening.

There are no hijinks in this final book of the trilogy.  The dilemma to be resolved is a very serious one:  a fire breaks out in Building 64 while Moose is supposed to be watching Natalie, but he falls asleep.  Many people on the island, adults included, blame Natalie for the fire.  This whole situation was a bit difficult for me to wrap my head around.  Living here, in this day and age, and reading that adults were blaming a disabled child for a fire, and trying to evict her and her family?  It seems ludicrous, but the 1930s were an entirely different time.  Mr. Flanagan is also under a very real threat, becoming the Associate Warden.  Prisons did not have nearly so many security checks back then, and prisoners were sometimes able to pass notes or materials from cell to cell.  Of course the prisoners would target the guards and wardens.

Even with the serious notes, I continue to absolutely love spending time with Moose and his friends.  I wish I was a young teen on Alcatraz!  While things are always perfect in the world, all is right in the Flanagan home.  I love the way that Mr. Flanagan talks to Moose; respectfully ("man to man"?) but yet also gently teaching.  I love that his mom and all the other wives on the island all love the kids (all of them) to pieces.  There is just the right mixture of mystery and danger coupled with love and security to keep Moose on his toes.

A bonus: at the end of each book, Gennifer Choldenko has a few pages of historical notes, where she tells the reader which parts of the book are fact, and which are fiction.  She also gives a few extra fun historical facts about Alcatraz.  I really respect all the research she has put into these books.

*I checked out my copy of Al Capone Does My Homework from my local library.

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