Dial Books for Young Readers, 2013. 978-0803734722
Synopsis: Alcatraz isn’t exactly a normal place to grow up, but for twenty-four of us kids, it’s home. And really, having a bunch of notorious criminals as neighbors isn’t so bad…if only you know what they’re up to. Turns out the cons have a point system for targeting the guards, and now that my dad is the Associate Warden, that’s a big deal. Plus, there was that fire in our apartment that Darby Trixle wants to blame on Natalie. How am I supposed be responsible for everybody when I can hardly be responsible for myself?
Why I picked it up: I love good historical fiction and Choldenko has really brought a new life to 1930s Alcatraz and its residents.
Why I finished it: I don’t know that I would go so far as to call this the conclusion to Moose and Natalie’s story because I’m pretty sure it lives on in the stories of its real-life residents and the story will keep going in the hearts of the books’ fans. Moose feels like he’s taking on more and more responsibility now that his dad has been named Associate Warden, a fire consumes their apartment, and Moose’s mom is depending on him to take care of Natalie when she’s giving piano lessons. Plus, he’s noticed that his friend Annie seems…different…prettier…. Everything just seems so out of control even after he convinces his friends to help him investigate the cause of the fire in 2E. Choldenko’s afterword says that in the 1930s, there were no fire escapes in the buildings where the guard families were housed, and although there were never any major fires in the building, it’s hard to think about in the modern age. But while Moose’s story is fiction, it’s intriguing to think about how families lived with con artists and murderers as their neighbors and the confusion it could cause for people that lived in the city. It’s a story with a big heart that shows us the meaning of friendship, family, and overcoming obstacles.
Other related materials: Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko; Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko; If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko; Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper; Paperboy by Vince Vawter; Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos; From Norvelt to Nowhere by Jack Gantos; A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff; Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage; The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage; Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan; The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata, illustrated by Julia Kuo; The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech; P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia