Al Capone Throws Me a Curve
Al Capone Throws Me a Curve

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Series: Tales From Alcatraz Vol. 4   

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Annotation: In this sequel, Moose, the son of an Alcatraz prison guard, spends the summer of 1936 watching his autistic sister, Natalie, and the warden's thrill-seeking daughter, Piper, while trying to win a spot on the high school baseball team.
Catalog Number: #160866
Format: Perma-Bound Edition from Publisher's Hardcover
All Formats: Search
Publisher: Random House
Copyright Date: 2018
Edition Date: 2018
Pages: 226 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 1-10-193813-7 Perma-Bound: 0-7804-1302-4
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-1-10-193813-3 Perma-Bound: 978-0-7804-1302-3
Dewey: Fic
LCCN: 2017026933
Dimensions: 21 cm.
Language: English
Reviews:
Horn Book
When his sister's attempt to secure a spot for him on the varsity baseball team backfires, Moose takes the blame. Meanwhile, a prison strike jeopardizes the warden's leadership. As both plot strands work toward their resolutions, Moose realizes that family is more important than baseball. This fourth Tale from Alcatraz (Al Capone Does My Shirts etc.) continues to effectively develop both the vivid historical setting and the tightly woven Alcatraz community.
Starred Review for Kirkus Reviews
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)
Starred Review ALA Booklist
*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 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 t 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.
Word Count: 48,139
Reading Level: 3.7
Interest Level: 4-7
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 3.7 / points: 7.0 / quiz: 195056 / grade: Middle Grades
Reading Counts!: reading level:3.2 / points:11.0 / quiz:Q73497
Lexile: 540L
Guided Reading Level: Y
Fountas & Pinnell: Y

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.

Return to Al Capone's Alcatraz with Newbery Honor-winning author Gennifer Choldenko in this charming addition to the beloved series about the son of a prison guard.

Moose Flanagan lives on a famous island in California: Alcatraz, home to some of the most dangerous prisoners in the United States in the 1930s. It's the summer before he starts high school, and Moose is going to play a lot of baseball and win a spot on the high school team. But he still needs to watch his special older sister, Natalie--and then the warden asks Moose to look after his two-faced, danger-loving daughter, Piper.

In the cell house there are rumors that the cons will a strike, and that Moose's father might step up to a new job. Moose is worried: What will this mean for their family, especially for Natalie, who's had some scary run-ins with prisoners? Then the unthinkable happens: Natalie winds up someplace she should never, ever go. And Moose has to rescue her.

Don't miss the rest of the Tales from Alcatraz series!
Al Capone Does My Shirts
Al Capone Shines My Shoes
Al Capone Does My Homework


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