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)