A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Al Capone Throws Me a Curve -- the fourth book in Gennifer Choldenko's A Tale from Alcatraz series -- centers on how Moose Flanagan's family handles the maturation of his sister, Natalie, who's on the autism spectrum. Her interest in wearing flattering dresses and her infatuation with a teen boy cause embarrassment and concern for Moose, and she ends up in a perilous situation that puts her in danger of sexual assault. The worry over sexual violence and undesirable attention is an essential thread in the plot but isn't discussed explicitly: Moose frets over her exposure to the "abominably wicked men" in the prison, and there's a close encounter with an armed, threatening inmate. Children handle a weapon without permission and face perilous situations. One adult is overwhelmed and struggles to be a fully engaged parent, and another intentionally exposes a child to danger to try to gain advantage for her own family.
What's the story?
All Moose Flanagan really wants in AL CAPONE THROWS ME A CURVE is to secure a spot on the high school baseball team. But the captain refuses to give a freshman a chance -- unless Moose can bring him impossible proof that he knows Al Capone, the most famous inmate on Alcatraz Island, where Moose lives with his family because his father works there. Meanwhile, the warden saddles Moose with keeping tabs on his untrustworthy daughter, and a prisoner strike has everyone on edge. To top it all off, Moose feels as if he's the only one trying to keep his older sister, Natalie, who's on the autism spectrum, from people who might take advantage of her. It all comes to a head with the most high-stakes game of baseball Moose has ever played.
Is it any good?
Gennifer Choldenko makes great use of one of the world's most notorious prisons as an enticing hook for her popular A Tale from Alcatraz series, but the real drama is focused on family and growing up. In Al Capone Throws Me a Curve, Moose chafes at having so much responsibility, but he appreciates how much he's needed: He fills in for an unreliable parent to care for his sister, steps up to handle convicts' chores when they strike, and takes initiative to help his family when someone sets them up for disaster.
Moose's sister with autism remains key to the plot: As Natalie turns 17, her behavior forces her family to stop treating her like a little girl and think more about her future. She's a strong character, and Moose treats her with respect and love. His empathy is the beating heart of this series, from his love for Natalie to his concern for an at-risk inmate and his beloved cat. Growing up can be hard, but here Moose learns that standing up for himself doesn't mean he's on his own.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Moose shoulders responsibility in Al Capone Throws Me a Curve. Do you think his family expects too much of him? Do you sometimes feel pressure to handle more than you feel you should?
How would you feel about living in a place like Alcatraz?
What do you think about the portrayals of girls and boys in the story? In what ways do you think they reflect the time in which the story takes place?
- Author: Gennifer Choldenko
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Great Boy Role Models, History
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Wendy Lamb
- Publication date: May 8, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 8 - 12
- Number of pages: 240
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
Themes & Topics
For kids who love family stories and books about kids on the autism spectrum
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