Reading/Interest Level: Intermediate, Young Adult
Author: Gennifer Choldenko
Publisher: Puffin Books
When Moose’s father lands a job in Alcatraz, his family is forced to move to the home of the most infamous criminals. Moose finds himself in trouble when he gets involved in selling Alcatraz’s laundry service with Piper, the warden’s daughter. The warden is furious when he finds out about their shenanigans and almost fires Moose’s father because of it. To add to his problems, Moose is asked to watch his sister Natalie, who has autism, after school. As Natalie ages, the family worries that she may never get into a school specializing in helping children with autism. Moose thinks he knows a certain criminal on Alcatraz that could help him get the the job done, though.
In this story that details the adventurous and sometimes difficult life of Moose Flanagan, readers learn themes of sacrifice, family, and integrity. Choldenko weaves together fiction with historical fact to create an intriguing story that could have plausibly happened in historical context. Readers who are looking for a story describing adventures on Alcatraz might be disappointed by the fact that the book is heavily focused on Moose’s family issues and seems to ignore the unique setting at times. Potential readers should be prepared to read a theme-heavy book and not count on as much plot as might be expected from a historical fiction novel. Despite this, readers will still finish the book with an astounded smile on their faces as Moose’s family troubles and odd life in Alcatraz combine to create a surprising, satisfying conclusion.