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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

In 1935, 12-year-old Moose moves with his parents and autistic sister, Natalie, to Alcatraz Island. Moose must cater to the whims of the warden's conniving daughter, Piper, and care extensively for Natalie. Fascinated by the nearby cons — especially Al Capone — Moose, Piper and the other island kids pull crazy stunts to get near the criminals and impress nonisland kids. After Moose's parents fail to get Natalie into a special school several times, Moose decides to enlist the help of Capone himself.

Christian Beliefs

Moose's mother takes Natalie to a charismatic church and reads the Bible to her for two hours a day. This is one of several unsuccessful, temporary "healing" attempts to cure Natalie's autism. Another girl on the island is sent to church daily as a punishment for misbehaving.

Other Belief Systems

Moose mentions that his mother ordered Voodoo dolls in an effort to cure Natalie.

Authority Roles

Moose's mom and dad work long hours. They expect much of Moose and require him to forfeit most of his free time to supervise Natalie. They're loving parents, but jobs and concerns for their handicapped child sap their energy. After a hard day, Moose's dad gives him a half glass of beer. As Natalie's authority figure, Moose demonstrates compassion and protectiveness — although as an adolescent, he doesn't always make the wisest care-giving decisions. Warden Williams, the island's chief authority, generally allows his affection for his daughter to blind him to the truth.


Infrequent use of darn, cripes sake. Jesus' name used in vain. Some bathroom humor.


Moose worries that an inmate may have taken advantage of Natalie, but these concerns are only implied. Natalie takes off all of her clothes during a brief episode of nonsexual nudity.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

10 and up


Gennifer Choldenko






Record Label



G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers Group


On Video

Year Published



Newbery Honor Book, 2005; ALA Best Book for Young Adults, 2005; ALA Notable Children's Book, 2005


We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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