(Image from Barnes & Noble)
(Note: While this review will not contain spoilers for Al Capone Does My Homework, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Alcatraz books. As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.)
Moose Flanagan's a worrier. Always has been. The 13-year-old worries about Natalie, his autistic older sister. He worries about Darby Trixle, the prison guard who's had it in for Moose ever since the Flanagans moved to Alcatraz Island. He worries about Piper Williams, the girl he likes on the outside, but not so much on the inside. And, now, he's got to worry about his father, too. Moose stressed enough when his dad was just an electrician—with his dad's new job as associate warden, the teenager's worrying slams into overdrive. When Piper informs him about a deadly game the cons play with Alcatraz's leading men, Moose can hardly breathe, he's so scared for his dad.
In the meantime, all kinds of weird stuff is happening on the island: Piper's acting stranger than usual; a mysterious fire forces the Flanagans out of their apartment; Darby Trixle's more adamant than ever about kicking Natalie off the island; and the cons are up to something sinister. With the aid of his friends (which just may include the infamous Al Capone), Moose has to figure out what's going on before it's too late for his sister, his dad, and himself.
Ever since I read Al Capone Does My Shirts, the first installment in Gennifer Choldenko's appealing upper middle grade series about life on Alcatraz in the 1930s, I've been captivated. Not just by the unique setting, but by the colorful characters, the day-to-day problems Moose faces, and the authentic, yet entertaining ways he goes about solving them. Each of the books in the series brings something new to the table; Al Capone Does My Homework (available for purchase on August 20, 2013) is no exception. Choldenko just has a gift for bringing the world of Alacatraz to life in books that enchant both children and adults. Be warned, though—the Alcatraz stories are edgier than they seem. Still, this is one of the most original, well-written historical middle grade series out there. My only complaint with the newest book is that it will be the last one in the trilogy. Anyone got a tissue? I'm really going to miss the always endearing Moose Flanagan.
Although this book is written for middle graders, because of some language (no F-bombs) and violence, it's really most suited for readers aged 10+.
To the FTC, with love: I received an ARC of Al Capone Does My Homework from the generous folks at Penguin Young Readers Group. Thank you!