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Al Capone Does My Homework: 11/15/20
Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko is the third in the Al Capone at Alcatraz middle grade series. Moose and Natalie and their parents are still living on Alcatraz. Their dad has been promoted to Associate Warden and that's when the trouble starts. There's a fire in their home and everyone seems ready to blame Natalie because she's autistic.
If we strip away the window dressing — namely the historical backdrop of the 1930s and the physical location of Alcatraz — book three is a straight up middle grade mystery. There was a fire in the home while Moose and his sister were home alone. The adults want to blame the sister because she doesn't act like a "normal" teenager and has been further infantilized by her parents to keep her in the special school longer. Moose, knows she couldn't have done it, and sets out to prove who actually set the fire with help of his friends.
But this being part of the Al Capone series means that Moose and the others have to somehow interact with prisoners. It never makes much sense when they do, but they always do.
As always, Natalie is more of a prop than a character. She's the reason they've moved to San Francisco. She's the reason they feel compelled to stay at this dangerous job. But we very rarely get a sense of what she's going through or how she feels about living on the island or going to the school well past the age when she should be, even thought Natalie has been on occasion shown to have opinions and the ability to self care, albeit with some help.
My point is, this series would be very different but more genuine if it were told from Natalie's point of view, rather than using her as a plot device for Moose to be having all these adventures on Alcatraz Island.