From School Library Journal
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, NYα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*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. Grades 5-8. --Thom Barthelmess