Al Capone throws me a curve

Gennifer Choldenko, 1957-

Book - 2018

Moose has his hands full during the summer of 1936 watching his autistic sister, Natalie, and the warden's daughter, Piper, and trying to get on a baseball team by proving he knows Al Capone.

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New York : Wendy Lamb Books [2018]
Main Author
Gennifer Choldenko, 1957- (author)
First edition
Item Description
Sequel to: Al Capone does my homework.
Physical Description
226 pages : illustrations, map ; 22 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Choldenko may throw readers for a curve by adding a fourth volume to her acclaimed A Tale from Alcatraz trilogy, but its quality is as reliable as ever. Now 13, Moose Flanagan is gearing up to start high school, and he and Scout desperately want to make the baseball team; but as freshmen, their odds are slim to none. When Scout scores them a spot on a summer pickup game with some high-schoolers, their chance of being officially added to the team improves but hinges on Moose being able to prove that he knows Al Capone a next-to-impossible task. Further complicating Moose's summer is his assignment to keep an eye on Piper, the warden's cute, trouble-making daughter not to mention watching over Natalie. Choldenko ramps up the drama when rumors that Mr. Flanagan could become the new warden put Nat and Moose in serious danger. This story is really Nat's, who, as a young woman on the autism spectrum, has more obstacles than the average teen to surmount when it comes to spreading her wings. Yet, it's her family that truly struggles to accept that she's capable of more than they believed, and they must learn to let her go. This worthy second ending finishes on a hopeful note that series fans will embrace.--Smith, Julia Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-7-In this fourth book in the series, Moose faces a busy summer. While his sister Natalie is maturing and Alcatraz is in the midst of a Bureau of Prison inspection, Moose is struggling to keep Piper out of trouble and vying to be on the high school baseball team. He evolves from a pushover to an assertive young man, who, after a pivotal scene with Al Capone, tells his father the truth about events and stands up to the captain of the baseball team. Natalie grows up, too, offering keen observations about her mother and herself and demonstrating an increased ability to cope with stressful situations. The other characters are less developed, yet Choldenko creates a believable community of flawed individuals. Choldenko provides photographs and historical context for her fictional account in a detailed afterword. VERDICT A powerful story of love and family that will please fans and newcomers.-Hilary Writt, Sullivan University, Lexington, KY © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review

With high school looming in the fall, Moose is determined to make the varsity baseball team; if he can offer tangible proof that he knows Al Capone, his chances improve dramatically. His older sister, Natalie, whose brain isnt wired like everyone elses, accompanies him to summer practices, where she first falls head over heels for a player, then brings a gun in an effort to impress the captain and secure Mooses spot on the team. True to form (and not without resentment), Moose takes the blame. Meanwhile, a prison strike on Alcatraz places the wardens leadership on shaky ground, and with the supervising board set to visit, rumors swirl that Mooses father could be in line to take over the top post. As both plot strands work toward their resolutions, Moose realizes that his family is more important than baseball. Natalie, in particular, comes into her own in this book; she is growing up, developing her potential, experiencing adolescence, and working toward independence. In this fourth Tale from Alcatraz (Al Capone Does My Shirts and sequels), Choldenko continues to effectively develop the vivid historical setting (explained in greater depth in the back matter) as well as the tightly woven community of guards, family members, and prisoners. jonathan hunt (c) Copyright 2018. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Most people's lives (and the best books) have more than one plotline.As in Choldenko's first three books set on Alcatraz Island during the mid-1930s, (Al Capone Does My Shirts, 2004, etc.), Moose, 13, has plenty of issues to handle. Among them are: his 17-year-old autistic sister Natalie's growing awareness of her own sexuality; warden's daughter and perennial thorn-in-his-side Piper's predilection for causing trouble in spite of his best efforts; his passionate hunger to make the high school baseball team; and a prison strike that could spell the death sentence for Fastball, a good-natured prisoner who's up for parole. These conflicts and more threaten to crush Moose under their combined weight as they're deftly recounted in his attractive and always believable first-person narrative. When a guard's ambitious wife lures far-too-trusting Natalie into the prison, the tale goes from suspenseful to desperate as Moose struggles to rescue her. Although the Al Capone books were intended as a trilogy, this welcome fourth volume gives Moose the opportunity to help launch Nat into a hopeful future. Even secondary characters are full of life, inspiring empathy, and the never-demeaning depiction of Natalie's emerging maturity is particularly notable. The primary cast is a white one.It's earnest Moose, always striving to do the right thing, who elevates this tale, like a hard-hit baseball, into the stratosphere. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Tuesday, May 26, 1936   Even when you live on a prison island with crafty criminals plotting ways to knock you off, summer is the best time of the year.   No tests. No homework. No getting up early to catch the ferry. No teachers who think you flunked a few grades because you're kind of big for thirteen and a half.   Summer is freedom. Not for the prisoners, of course. But for us kids who live on Alcatraz Island.   Naturally, summer on Alcatraz isn't like summer other places. For one thing, the weather in the San Francisco Bay can be colder and foggier than in winter. For another, kids can't go many places on the island. We're not allowed in the cell house, in the industry buildings, in the west-side gardens, on most of the beaches, and in all the guard towers.   Our fathers work in the prison up top, so they're allowed everywhere. But even with restricted access, there are two decent spots to play baseball: the parade grounds and down by the dock. And there's one other Alcatraz kid who can really play.   She's a girl. But still.   Baseball . . . that's what I'm thinking about as I shovel in my breakfast toast, hoping the last five days of school will go fast.   My father frowns at me, crushing crumbs with his fork. "Saw the warden at shooting practice this morning. He wants to talk to you."   I stop chewing. "The warden? Why?"   He shrugs.   "Uh-oh! Uh-oh!" my older sister, Natalie, mutters. Her blond-brown head is bent forward as she counts toothpicks in rows. She's tall, like my mom and me, but she holds herself in a way that makes her look younger and smaller than she is.   My father's hand hovers over Natalie's toothpicks. "Okay if I take one?"   Natalie hands him the last one in line.   We moved up here from Santa Monica a year and a half ago so Nat could go to a school called the Esther P. Marinoff, which helps kids whose brains aren't wired like everyone else's. My parents sacrificed a lot for her to go to that school. We all did.   My father was an electrician in Santa Monica, but he had a hard time finding a job up here. It's almost impossible to get work on account of the Depression. I don't understand exactly what the Depression is except it has to do with the banks collapsing and people not having money. The only job my father could get was as a guard and an electrician in the prison. Everybody likes him here, though, so he was promoted to assistant warden.   Since Nat's been at the Esther P. Marinoff, she's learned how to have a conversation--not just echo what you say. She still has a difficult time looking people in the eye, but she has been trying really hard. Now we're helping her make friends.   My father watches Nat move on to a new project: cutting pictures out of magazines and pasting them to boards. My mom has written "happy" on one board. Natalie hunts for pictures of people who are happy. There's another board for "sad," but Nat doesn't care much about that one.   "Look at you, sweet pea. One day you'll find a nice man to marry, and you'll live in your very own house."   My mother doesn't like when my father talks about Nat getting married. She thinks it's more than Natalie will ever manage, but my father says nonsense, his girl can do anything.   Dad strokes his bald spot. "You'll never guess who I drove up top last night."   I don't have to guess. I know. "Piper."   Piper is the warden's thirteen-year-old daughter. When I first moved to the island and I was stupid as a stone, I had a crush on her. Now I know better. I hope I do, anyway. Sometimes I get a little turned around by how cute she is.   Piper has a good side . . . but it's tiny and not easy to locate. Dealing with her is like potty-training a snake. Which end does the business? I don't even know.   I take a bite of a crispy corner of my toast. "Am I supposed to go before school?"   "Shouldn't take long." My father glances at the clock. "The warden's a busy man. And you, sweet pea." He turns to Natalie. "Happy day-before-your-birthday."   Nat doesn't answer.   Things have always been screwy around Natalie's birthday. Every year Mom pretends Natalie is turning ten again, instead of fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, or, this year, seventeen. Mom wants Nat to be younger so she has more time to catch up with the other kids.   After breakfast, I put on my scratchy shirt and tie, my good trousers and squeaky shoes.   When my mom sees me, she takes a step back. "Moose! What happened to you?"   I shrug. No sense in getting her worked up. If my dad hasn't told her, I'm certainly not going to.   Outside, I trudge past the guard tower, which is a tiny room on three-story-tall metal legs. All the firepower on the island is up in the towers and in the gun galleries. An armed guard down with the convicts can be jumped, ambushed, taken down. But when a guard is up high with his gun trained on us, we're all safe. Or as safe as we can be on a twelve-acre rock with kidnappers, con men, hit men, bank robbers, criminals, crooks, murderers, and maybe an assassin or two.   I walk up the steep switchback to the top of the island, which really stinks. Alcatraz is the world's biggest bird toilet; plus there are three hundred and fifty prisoner toilets up here. They don't help the aroma, that's for sure.   The sky directly over the island is a crisp blue, but the fog is rolling through the Golden Gate. Blink once, it's sunny; blink twice and the world has gone gray.   I'm in no hurry to see the warden, so I take a detour by the recreation-yard wall.   My dad says the prison yard is a little piece of hell. Things happen there you don't ever want to know about.   The prisoners play baseball here on weekend afternoons. I've never seen them play, but I've heard them. One of the cons, a guy named Fastball, who works in the warden's house, made it to the minor leagues before his bank-robbing career got in the way. Another, Fat Fogarty, hits so hard, he's broken two bats.   It's scary that they give baseball bats to felons, but I guess baseball can make any guy behave. My father says baseball is as important inside the prison as it is outside it. He says the prison-game scores get posted right next to the major league scores on the menu every week.   I keep walking past the cell house, where a con is shouting about a hanging tree. I've never been inside the main part of the cell house, and I sure don't want to go in there, either.   Since a convict stabbed my father a few months ago, I haven't thought it was so great to live on an island with a bunch of murderers . . . especially with a sister like Natalie. Excerpted from Al Capone Throws Me a Curve by Gennifer Choldenko All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.