How was your October reading Challenge-Wise? I hope it was a good month for you.
I have to admit – I just about baled on this month. I just couldn’t get excited or interested in anything Mob or gangster related. But at the last minute I picked up a children’s/young adult book and, well, it was pretty good.
Al Capone Throws Me a Curve by Gennifer Choldenko is actually the fourth in the series and reading this one kind of makes me want to go back and read the first three! It’s not as dark and violent as say, The Godfather, but it also doesn’t sugar-coat or romanticize the criminals or what they’ve done.
“Moose” Flanagan lives on Alcatraz Island with his parents and his older sister Natalie where his father works as the assistant warden at the prison during the Great Depression. Natalie has many problems (what we would probably now diagnose as autistic) and her care puts a strain on the family and a lot of responsibility on Moose. There are other families with kids on the island including the Warden’s troublemaker daughter Piper and Moose’s friend Jimmy. Moose wants nothing more than to be a normal high school kid and to spend the summer playing baseball. Things aren’t always that simple though, especially when your home is on an island where some of the most notorious, dangerous criminals – including Al Capone – live.
The reality is that Moose spends a lot of time looking after Natalie, making sure she is safe and keeping her out of trouble. Moose is used to this and knows how to help her when she gets frustrated or frightened, but this summer it’s much harder. First he takes the blame for a big mistake that Natalie makes and when she gets lost and ends up inside the prison, he has to put everything on the line to get her out.
This book was a quick, fun read but it’s also full of insight – the family dynamics of caring for a special needs child, the love that Moose has for his sister, the price of trying to belong with the wrong people, the difficulty and rewards of growing up and letting go. There’s also a lot of interesting information about how the prison at Alcatraz operated, the social dynamics of the prisoners and the lives of the people working on the island. A great read!
Now it’s your turn – what did you read for October?