Moose Flanagan is back and his fans are cheering. Moose first showed up in Al CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS (2004), then AL CAPONE SHINES MY SHOES (2009), and finally AL CAPONE DOES MY HOMEWORK (2013). The series tells the the story of Moose and his family’s life on Alcatraz Island. They live there because Dad works at the prison during the time Capone was an inmate from 1934-1939. The first book was set in 1935 when Moose is twelve. School means taking a ferry along with other young residents to a location across the bay.

After I read the last book, I’d assumed this was trilogy, but author Gennifer Choldenko had more to say. She wanted another ending to the series. So now we have AL CAPONE THROWS ME A CURVE and I loved how it ended.  Moose is “thirteen and half” and is preparing to enter high school in 1936. You won’t be lost if you begin with this book as it stands alone as its own story. Bits and pieces of previous plots are thrown in and you’ll probably be going back to read the first three.

Yes, historical fiction can be a tough sell for young readers, but what makes it work here is the same for any genre—the characters. Moose is the heart, soul, and narrator of each story. You’ll love this kid because he is respectful and looks out for others, especially his older sister Natalie. She is on the autism spectrum as they call it these days, but back then there were a lot of unknowns as to how to deal with someone like Natalie. Moose comes to her rescue almost daily as his mother has bouts of not being able to cope with the issues of raising a daughter who demands so much time.

I closed the book satisfied that I’d learned a little about love and family that are often taken for granted. I also laughed out loud several times at some of the dialog. Whether you are a seasoned follower of the Alcatraz series or brand new, give this one a go. It just might end up on the top of your favorite’s list this year.


THE  PLOT (From Barnes & Noble):  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.


  1. The supporting cast around Moose make this story shine even more—kids, adults and convicts alike.
  2. The title comes into the story in the most surprising way. A home run for sure but you won’t get the play by play until the climatic ending.
  3. The author’s note in the back of the book gives you more information on Alcatraz, the kids who lived there, and Prison life. There’s also a touching note about where the inspiration for the character of Natalie came from.
  4. Natalie’s affection for another boy (she wants to marry him) is softened not by the adults but in true kid style. Another great line not to be missed in this scene.
  5. Baseball fans will love the connection to a game with its own history.

FAVORITE LINES (There are so many, but here’s a sample from Ch. 1):

The prison yard knows everything.

In fact, it seems like they know more about us than we know about them. In most cases I only know a convict’s prison name. There’s Fang, who bit off a man’s finger for refusing to hand over his wallet, Wrong Way Willy, a jewel thief, who got caught because he put the car in reverse instead of drive, and Tommy Twelve, who killed eleven of his wives. The twelfth comes to visit every month or so.

AUTHOR QUOTE: (From the author website of Gennifer Choldenko) 

One Third Nerd, my funniest novel yet, is due out in January 2019. My most famous novel, Al Capone Does My Shirts, garnered 20 awards, one of which was the Newbery Honor. The Tales of Alcatraz series has sold more than 2 million copies. What will probably be the last book in the series: Al Capone Throws Me a Curve is the best of the fifteen books I’ve written so far.

I am a fitness fanatic; a book-obsessed, tennis-playing woman who thinks like a twelve-year-old. If I ever get the good fortune to meet you, offer me coffee and I will be your friend for life.


If you missed my review of another one of Gennifer’s recent books, check out CHASING SECRETS.


Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Click on the comments link below.

About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
This entry was posted in New Release, Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Bibi Belford says:

    Oh yay! I love the AL Capone books so it’s exciting news that Moose has more adventures. I know what you mean about historical fiction being tough to serve but usually once kids taste it they do like it.

  2. Sounds like a great story. And such imaginative names for the prisoners.

  3. Jill the OWL says:

    Glad to hear this one is good. I wondered when there was another one, but good to hear it’s a good addition to the series!

  4. cleemckenzie says:

    Since I loved her other books, I’m sure this one will be just as satisfying.

  5. This sounds like a great story and series. Will have to check it out. I just happened to see the segment about life at Alcatraz Island on CBS Sunday Morning yesterday. I was intrigued by all of the training, schooling programs and the prisoners who are working hard to improve themselves. You may want to check it out, because it also compares it to the past.

  6. Danielle Hammelef says:

    I love these books and plan on reading this soon.

  7. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I have visited Alcatraz a couple of times. It was one of the most eery places I have ever been . . . I also love baseball. This series sounds great! Thanks for sharing this selection and author with us, Greg.

  8. This book is on the very top of my TBR list at the moment. I have to get to it soon. Thanks for your review. It makes me want to get to it more.

  9. Pingback: The 2018 GOLDEN CUP AWARDS | Always in the Middle…

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