Reviews for Al Capone Does My Homework


Booklist Reviews 2013 June #1
*Starred Review* In this final installment in Choldenko's Alcatraz series, Moose Flanagan has a mystery to solve. His father has been promoted to associate warden of the infamous island prison, drawing negative attention from cons and guards alike. When their family apartment is burned down, gossip points to Moose's older sister, Natalie, and it falls to Moose to discover the truth. With baseballs, bottle caps, and carrier-cockroaches, he and the other island kids take on gambling debts, missing knives, a murder plot, a counterfeit ring, even pixie secrets--any of which might or might not be related to the fire. Choldenko supports all of this with the strength of her generous narrative, weaving in resonant emotional elements like the complicated family dynamic circling Natalie's autism and Moose's budding romance with Piper. (Or is it Annie?) Especially noteworthy is the author's sensitive ability to humanize heroes and villains alike, grounding the tense action in palpable reality. With rich characterization, tender drama, and sleuthworthy clues, this poignant mystery makes for a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to the landmark historical trilogy. A detailed author's note highlights elements of truth uncovered in her research that made their way into the story. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2014 Spring
It's 1936: Moose Flanagan (Al Capone Does My Shirts) is now thirteen, and his father has been promoted to associate warden of Alcatraz. When Moose dozes off while babysitting and wakes to discover that the family apartment is on fire, blame settles on his autistic sister, Natalie. But Moose suspects arson. Choldenko's novel is a multifaceted mix of history, mystery, intrigue, and humor.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #4
It's 1936: Moose Flanagan (Al Capone Does My Shirts; Al Capone Shines My Shoes, rev. 9/09) is now thirteen years old, and his father has been promoted to associate warden of Alcatraz. Moose is wracked with guilt when he dozes off while babysitting his sister, Natalie, and wakes to discover that the family apartment is on fire. Blame settles on Natalie, who is autistic and has never been tolerated, let alone embraced, by many in the island's community. But Moose suspects arson, worried that his father's new position at the prison means targeting by the dangerous Alcatraz convicts, who always seem to have a sphere of influence reaching far beyond their tiny prison cells. Moose gradually comes to realize that his father has enemies on both sides of the bars. Choldenko's multifaceted novel offers something for everyone -- history, mystery, intrigue, and humor. Ultimately, though, it's this extremely likable boy working through friendships and crushes, on the one hand, and wrestling with family and community problems, on the other, that has held our attention through three books. jonathan hunt

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 April #2
Newbery Honoree Choldenko brings her trilogy about a boy and his unusual life on Alcatraz Island to a bittersweet end. Now 13, Moose feels more responsible than ever for his autistic older sister, Natalie. So when a fire starts in his family's apartment one evening while his parents are out, he's sure it's somehow his fault. Did Natalie start the fire after he nodded off? Moose and the other Alcatraz kids don't think so, but they find it's not so easy to prove when Natalie is unable to explain herself. Meanwhile, jealous prison guard Darby Trixle keeps giving Moose's dad a hard time for landing the job Darby believes he deserved, and mysterious wads of cash are showing up in the prison laundry. When Moose recovers a lost piece of his homework from the burned-out apartment covered in Al Capone's handwriting, it provides him with clues to the source of the random money and the motivation to clear Natalie's name. Choldenko consistently excels at penning pitch-perfect dialogue and balancing a large cast of original characters, and this title is no exception. But new readers will want to start with the series opener, as this is a true concluding volume. A satisfying finale to what has become a cornerstone series in contemporary children's literature. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Kirkus Reviews 2013 July #1
Newbery Honoree Choldenko brings her trilogy about a boy and his unusual life on Alcatraz Island to a bittersweet end. Now 13, Moose feels more responsible than ever for his autistic older sister, Natalie. So when a fire starts in his family's apartment one evening while his parents are out, he's sure it's somehow his fault. Did Natalie start the fire after he nodded off? Moose and the other Alcatraz kids don't think so, but they find it's not so easy to prove when Natalie is unable to explain herself. Meanwhile, jealous prison guard Darby Trixle keeps giving Moose's dad a hard time for landing the job Darby believes he deserved, and mysterious wads of cash are showing up in the prison laundry. When Moose recovers a lost piece of his homework from the burned-out apartment covered in Al Capone's handwriting, it provides him with clues to the source of the random money and the motivation to clear Natalie's name. Choldenko consistently excels at penning pitch-perfect dialogue and balancing a large cast of original characters, and this title is no exception. But new readers will want to start with the series opener, as this is a true concluding volume. A satisfying finale to what has become a cornerstone series in contemporary children's literature. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2013 May #3

This final installment in the life of Moose Flanagan, a boy who lives on Alcatraz Island during the 1930s, brings Choldenko's trilogy to a satisfying conclusion. The story opens with good news: Moose's father, Cam, has been promoted to associate warden of the island's infamous prison. But the new job makes Cam a target, and the family feels the backlash immediately when a suspicious fire breaks out at their apartment while Moose and his developmentally disabled sister, Natalie, are home alone. A malicious neighbor suggests Natalie started the blaze, inciting problems with the special boarding school Natalie attends. Mean-while, money is changing hands in odd ways around the island, and inmate No. 85 (Capone) sends Moose another cryptic note, written on Moose's homework ("Luckily, he wrote in pencil"), which helps Moose and his affable gang sort the good guys from the bad. Choldenko continues to infuse the Alcatraz community with warmth and originality (the kids play "rock, newspapers, shiv"). Despite being "the roughest hard-time prison in America," by the end of this winning series, it's also a place Moose comes to proudly call home. Ages 10-up. (Aug.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 June

Gr 6-8--This conclusion to the trilogy picks up four months after Al Capone Shines My Shoes (Dial, 2009). Moose still feels the burden of looking out for his loved ones: protecting his father, newly promoted to Associate Warden; and caring for sister, whose latest challenge is learning to make eye contact with people. One night when he is babysitting Natalie, a fire breaks out in the family's apartment. Moose fears it's his fault because he fell asleep, and the resentful Trixle family blames Natalie. Moose and the Alcatraz kids (Piper, Annie, Jimmy, and Theresa) band together to find out what really caused the fire. Adding to the mystery, island residents are suddenly receiving anonymous gifts. Multiple reveals keep the pages turning quickly. Choldenko is unsurpassed at interweaving plot with historical detail, drawing a touching parallel between Natalie and first-term President Franklin Roosevelt. She uses Capone's celebrity status as a foil to Moose's father, which helps the 13-year-old appreciate his father's understated strengths. The trilogy ends on an uplifting note for Moose and Natalie. Choldenko hints that Natalie's math skills could lead to a meaningful life for her and Moose won't always have the weight of the world on his shoulders. His dad reassures him: "All you can do is try to inspire each person to be their best self." While the book ably stands alone, it delivers a satisfying conclusion to readers who've grown fond of this cast of characters.--M. Kozikowski, Sachem Public Library, Holbrook, NY

[Page 116]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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VOYA Reviews 2013 October
This eagerly awaited finale to the Alcatraz series should please existing fans. Set almost entirely on Alcatraz, the book quickly enters the life of Moose Flanagan, thirteen-year-old son of the associate warden. Moose and his family, along with the families of the other employees of Alcatraz, live on the island and take the ferry into San Francisco as needed. Moose's older sister, Nat, is autistic and spends most of her time at a boarding school in the city. As the story begins, it is the weekend and Moose is watching Nat while his parents go out. He awakens to find his room full of smoke and the apartment on fire. Moose and Nat get out, but who set the fire, why, and how are the central themes of the book. Other familiar characters such as Piper, the warden's daughter, bring their own mysteries to the plot, and Nat's theme of growing independence is both believable and inspiring. Choldenko paints a vivid picture of life for the children of 1930s Alcatraz. The reader knows Moose. Secondary and tertiary characters are drawn as clearly as Moose, and this may be, in part, why the first book in the series won a Newbery Honor. Others have suggested reading the first two titles first, and if you enjoy them, it may increase your understanding of this title; however, this book also stands well on its own, from both a plot and character development perspective, and would be a fine title to introduce to readers.--Beth Karpas 4Q 3P M J Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.

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