Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko. 224 p. Dial, August 20, 2013. 9780803734722.
Publisher synopsis: Alcatraz Island in the 1930s isn't the most normal place to grow up, but it's home for Moose Flanagan, his autistic sister, Natalie, and all the families of the guards. When Moose's dad gets promoted to Associate Warden, despite being an unlikely candidate, it's a big deal. But the cons have a point system for targeting prison employees, and his dad is now in serious danger. After a fire starts in the Flanagan's apartment, Natalie is blamed, and Moose bands with the other kids to track down the possible arsonist. Then Moose gets a cryptic note from the notorious Al Capone himself. Is Capone trying to protect Moose's dad too? If Moose can't figure out what Capone's note means, it may be too late.
The last heart-pounding installment in the New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor-winning Alcatraz trilogy is not to be missed!
Way back in 2004, I was utterly charmed by a book called Al Capone Does My Shirts. I had read and loved the author's earlier, Notes from a Liar and Her Dog, but there was something about Moose Flanagan and his story that just tickled me. It became my pick for Newbery 2005. It received an Honor. The gold went to Kira-Kira, a book I hadn't heard of let alone read. I ran right out, bought it and read it that night. Truthfully, at that time, I was unimpressed. It felt like a lot of other Newbery winner recipes. How could a dying girl book beat the unique story of Moose and Al Capone? Plus, my pick was funny! Boys as well as girls liked to read it!
Of course, with the passage of time, I did return to Kira-Kira and reread it. It's a lovely story; I did come to appreciate it as outstanding and have gone on to read just about everything Cynthia Kadohata has written since. Of course, kid appeal is not factored into the Newbery discussions. Of course, there is no Newbery recipe and Newbery tends to go to historical fiction as well as tragedy. Still, the book has a special place in my heart. I had no idea that there were plans for a trilogy. I got to read Al Capone Shines My Shoes as an arc (story about that in another post). Both books are quite popular at my school and students often ask when the final book will be out.
Now I have the answer. My students and I are wriggling in anticipation!