Al Capone Throws Me a Curve (Tales from Alcatraz)

Al Capone Throws Me a Curve (Tales from Alcatraz)
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Release Date
May 08, 2018
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Moose Flanagan lives on a famous island in California: Alcatraz, home to some of the most dangerous prisoners in the United States in the 1930s. It's the summer before he starts high school, and Moose is going to play a lot of baseball and win a spot on the high school team. But he still needs to watch his special older sister, Natalie--and then the warden asks Moose to look after his two-faced, danger-loving daughter, Piper.

In the cell house there are rumors that the cons will a strike, and that Moose's father might step up to a new job. Moose is worried: What will this mean for their family, especially for Natalie, who's had some scary run-ins with prisoners? Then the unthinkable happens: Natalie winds up someplace she should never, ever go. And Moose has to rescue her.

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Goodbye to Alcatraz
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There are a lot of things going on for Moose now that summer is approaching. He desperately wants to be on the high school baseball team, even though freshman rarely are. Also, Natalie has her 17th birthday, and her growing pains are evident. Her mother still dresses her like a ten year old, and wants to get her hair cut in a much younger style, but Bea Trixle has other ideas and not only cuts her hair in a stylish fashion for a young lady, but gives her two dresses that make Natalie feel more grown up. This causes some problems, including her crush on one of Moose's teammates after he is very nice to her and even gives her a button. Natalie keeps talking about Passerini, and even tells people that they are getting married. Bea even believes her! Moose knows he needs to have something special to bring to the team so that they let him on, and the other boys ask for pictures of Moose with Al Capone, and that sort of thing, which is just not realistic. Natalie hears this talk and brings their father's gun to a practice. This gets Moose in big trouble, but he doesn't tell on his sister. Piper is also causing him a lot of problems, since the warden approaches Moose to help look after her and keep her out of trouble. When the prisoners go on strike, Moose helps out with some of the work. One of the inmates, Fastball, is set to be released soon, so doesn't go on strike. When Bea plays a trick on Natalie so that Moose's father will look bad and her husband will be promoted to warden instead of him, Fastball is very helpful in getting Natalie out of a tricky situation. Moose realizes that while Alcatraz is a good place for him to be, it is not a great place for Natalie, and he helps his parents work through the process of getting her placed where she can flourish.
Good Points
This wraps up the story of Moose's family very nicely, showcases some nice growth from all concerned (even the father and mother!), and offers a glimpse of a particular place and time that is at once unusual and yet universal. The struggles the family has with finding a good place for Natalie would have been more difficult in the 1930s, but are still not easy today, but it was good to see that she had an affinity for bookkeeping and was able to excel at it. Moose's every day struggles with friends, school and baseball are realistic as well.

Moose is steadfast in his loyalty to his friends and to his sister. It is interesting to see Natalie as she becomes a young woman, and alarming to see how she is mistreated by someone who knows her, even if this is an all too common occurrence. Moose is even loyal to Piper, who is still a challenging individual.

The information about the historic site of Alzatraz at the end of the book was very interesting, and gave a lot of good details about many aspect of life during this time at this location. Choldenko has done a lot of research throughout this series, and it's great that she shares it with her readers. I just wish I were close enough to go on a field trip to Alcatraz!

I'd love to see more books set during the 1930s, since that decade before World War II has many similarities to modern culture, but also so many differences. Readers who are fond of delving into this era with books such as Milton Meltzer's semiautobiograpical Tough Times, Richard Peck's A Long Way From Chicago novels, Curtis' The Mighty Miss Malone and Holm's Turtle in Paradise books will enjoy this vivid tale of life during this era surrounded by some of its most daring and infamous criminals.
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