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Summary: Moose Flanagan (12) lives on Alcatraz Island because his father is a guard. Alcatraz used to be a prison that housed famous criminals like Al Capone. The less dangerous convicts do laundry, sewing, plumbing and other jobs for the civilians who live here. Moose's sister Natalie has a disability where her mind has not developed completely. She goes to the Esther P. Marinoff School because of Al Capone's help. Moose has never met the famous prisoner, but has gotten Capone's help and is now in his debt. Al Capone got a message via the laundry telling him to give flowers to Capone's wife, Mae, who happens to be at Natalie's school. Moose buys flowers on the mainland, but to erase suspicion about the purchase, Moose gives one yellow rose to every woman on board the boat going back to the island.
Then Moose learns that there is going to be a huge banquet on Alcatraz Island because the person who caught Al Capone is coming to visit. A few days before the banquet, Natalie visits Alcatraz as well. Moose and his friends discover a bar spreader in her luggage. They get worried and throw it into San Francisco Bay. Then everything on Alcatraz starts going wrong. The kids must fix everything without being caught by the adults. This is a humorous adventure that incorporates the legends of Alcatraz and Al Capone. This will appeal to reluctant readers and those looking for high interest / low readability options.
Type of Reading: bedtime story, independent reading, read aloud book, reluctant reader
Recommended Age: read together: 8 and up; read yourself: 10 and up
Young Reader Reaction: This book was a fun read, full of facts and action, and I would recommend this book as a gift to anyone in middle school. I also liked the trivia section in the end of the book, because this showed the real information that was the basis for this book. In addition to this book, I would recommend the prequel, Al Capone does my Shirts and the Joey Pigza series by Jack Gantos.
Adult Reader Reaction: What a fun, wholesome read. The characters are very realistic; even today's kids could see these kids as peers. Most importantly, the story is not as predictable as I thought it would be. It really makes you think ... particularly about your feelings about "the bad guys." Then there are twists that REALLY make you think.
Pros: Lots of action, a little bit of history, and some great humor combine in this fast, entertaining book. This is a great choice for high interest low readability readers.
Borrow or Buy: Borrow or buy. This is a fast, fun read that will engage readers. Dormant readers and confident readers will easily see themselves with Moose and his friends.
Educational Themes: This is a story meant for pleasure reading, but the additional material at the back lets you learn more about Al Capone, Alcatraz, and life as a law enforcement officer's child.
Notes: The publisher donated an advanced reviewer copy of this book knowing that we would consider it for review and provide an independent, unbiased profile. Our reviewer got a copy of the finished book at her library.