Alcatraz Island may seem a peculiar setting for Juvenile Fiction but in the hands of author Gennifer Choldenko, the infamous island becomes a fascinating backdrop in which to come of age.

As Mr. Flanagan begins his job as Associate Warden, his son Moose is struggling with his role in keeping his father safe. Complicating matters is Natalie, Moose’s 16 year old sister, who, “views the world through her own personal kaleidoscope.”  Although Moose and Natalie’s Mom insists Natalie try to blend in, Moose is more accepting and willing to allow Natalie to explore her own limitations.

When a fire breaks out in the Flanagan apartment, Natalie is blamed. However, Moose isn’t so sure Natalie set the blaze. As Moose and his friends investigate what might have happened and decide to ask the Cons imprisoned on Alcatraz, the reader is treated to how notes may have been passed in Alcatraz via cockroach messenger and the backstory of how some prisoners received their nicknames.

Things heat up when a butcher knife goes missing from the kitchen, worrying Moose more. He suspects his Dad is the next target in a Points game targeting prison employees. Al Capone may be the only one who can provide inside information to stop an attack, but will he talk and how will he choose to communicate?

Throughout the book, the personal growth of Moose becomes a secondary story line as he learns who can be trusted, that not everyone who acts nice is trustworthy, and that he is not responsible for the actions of everyone in his world.  “One time is gone, and the other has not yet begun,” for Moose.

The author’s notes on her experience at Alcatraz Island and research for the book may be as compelling as the book itself. The notes provide a glimpse into the thought processes and work that accompany good writing and also provide interesting factoids about “America’s Roughest Prison,” a place that has long captured the imagination of the public.

This Mark Twain Award Nominee book will be voted on during the Missouri Association of School Libraries conference late April, 2016.  Good luck Al Capone!

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