I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko
Series:Al Capone at Alcatraz #3
Published byDial BFYR on August 20, 2013
Amazon • The Book Depository • Audible
Alcatraz Island in the 1930s isn't the most normal place to grow up, but it's home for Moose Flanagan, his autistic sister, Natalie, and all the families of the guards. When Moose's dad gets promoted to Associate Warden, despite being an unlikely candidate, it's a big deal. But the cons have a point system for targeting prison employees, and his dad is now in serious danger. After a fire starts in the Flanagan's apartment, Natalie is blamed, and Moose bands with the other kids to track down the possible arsonist. Then Moose gets a cryptic note from the notorious Al Capone himself. Is Capone trying to protect Moose's dad too? If Moose can't figure out what Capone's note means, it may be too late.
The last heart-pounding installment in the New York Timesbestselling, Newbery Honor-winning Alcatraz trilogy is not to be missed!
An unsolicited ARC of Al Capone Does My Homework showed up at my house some months back. I’d heard of the series, and I think the first book was even on my to-read list, but it was probably something I never would have gotten to realistically. I mean, I put anything that sounds potentially interesting on my to-read, and there’s no way I can read all of that. After the ARC showed up, I mostly dismissed it, since it was book three in a series I hadn’t started. Then, though, I was looking for audiobooks to listen to and the library had the first two on Overdrive. Well, that changed everything. All of that is to explain both the format change from audio to print and the fact that I’m reviewing the ARC four months after the book came out. But still, it’s a win, right? I mean, I ended up getting to the series and I quite like it, so I say yes.
I’m going to keep this short (and for once I think I won’t just say that and then type on for the usual length of review), as the Al Capone at Alcatraz series is quite consistent in quality and subject matter. If you liked the previous two, you’re sure to enjoy this one as well.
To me, the most interesting element continues to be the relationships, particularly the way anyone interacts with Natalie. Moose still takes care of his autistic older sister Natalie most of the time, but he’s much more understanding than he used to be and also much more convinced that he can help her learn to function more normally. His parents are now much more conservative, afraid to rock the boat, but Moose knows that, with a lot of hard work, she could mix better with society. What they’re working on in Al Capone Does My Homework is getting Natalie to make eye contact with people, particularly during conversations. Throughout all of this, though, I like that Choldenko never shows Natalie as a pathetic figure or wrong. She always holds up the good with the bad.
The mystery didn’t interest me all that much, perhaps because I’m a bit sick of watching everyone on the island mistrust Natalie. She’s been there for three book’s already, so stop assuming she’s evil and/or dangerous. She just thinks about the world differently; get over it. I mean, I get it, but ugh. Plus, I’m not really into mysteries. I am, however, highly entertained by the middle grade romance, which has now turned into a love triangle. Moose has his pick of the ladies his age on Alcatraz. All two of them. This amuses me no end.
I think I preferred the series slightly on audio, but that may just be because I experienced it that way first. This continues to be a fun series, which I recommend for readers who enjoy unusual settings.
“I don’t understand why she can’t fake it.”
“One of the things I like about Natalie is she doesn’t fake anything, Moose.”
Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:
Moose Flanagan lives on Alcatraz Island. His father has just been promoted to Associate Warden at the infamous prison there. Moose hangs out with his friends --- Piper, Annie, Jimmy and Theresa ---- whose parents also work at the prison.
Life isn’t easy for Moose. He knows his father’s safety is precarious because of where he works. And he knows he has to protect and care for his older sister, Natalie, who is autistic. He feels like he needs to be able to help with everything, even though he is just a 13-year-old kid.
"Choldenko uses enough historical fact, woven into the fictional text, to create a believable scenario of what might have, or could have, happened on the island during that time period.
"Choldenko uses enough historical fact, woven into the fictional text, to create a believable scenario of what might have, or could have, happened on the island during that time period."
When his apartment catches on fire, things look suspicious. But who started the fire? And why? Moose’s sister is blamed for the fire, although she didn’t do it. But if she didn’t, then who did? Moose teams up with his friends to solve the mystery.
Al Capone is one of the men assigned to the cleanup detail for the apartment. Many things are burned up in the fire, but some things are spared. One of these items is an essay Moose wrote for school. Capone scribbles a note on the paper, leaving Moose a clue. But will Moose be able to figure out what is happening before it is too late?
There is also a secondary story, adding to the mystery. Some people on the island are receiving anonymous gifts. And other people suddenly seem to have money when they didn’t have any before. Who’s giving the gifts and why? And where is the extra money coming from? Can Moose and his friends figure this out, too? And can Natalie help solve the mysteries?
This book is fictional in nature, although it is based on historical fact, making it historical fiction. The prison did exist, and Al Capone was an inmate there, but the fire mentioned in the story never happened, at least there are no historical records to collaborate that. The author used the premise, “What if?” to create the story line. Choldenko uses enough historical fact, woven into the fictional text, to create a believable scenario of what might have, or could have, happened on the island during that time period.
This is the third book in the Alcatraz Trilogy by author Gennifer Choldenko. I did not read the other two books in the series, so I wasn’t familiar with Moose and his friends. But the author provided enough backstory for me to get a feel for what had happened in the previous episodes. This book reads well as a story by itself, but I would like to read the previous two volumes also.
Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on August 12, 2013
Al Capone Does My Homework
by Gennifer Choldenko
- Publication Date: August 20, 2013
- Genres:Youth Fiction
- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Dial
- ISBN-10: 0803734727
- ISBN-13: 9780803734722