Moose and his family are new to Alcatraz Island where his father is a prison officer. It is 1935 and Al Capone is one of the inmates… Moose quickly discovers that the Island children’s subculture is dominated by Piper, the Warden’s daughter, who uses her position to cook up all sorts of schemes. Moose is concerned for the welfare of his sister Natalie, who suffers from what we now know as autism.
I commend this book for its sympathetic picture of a family struggling to accept and make the best of a difficult condition: the empathy of the other children towards both Moose and Natalie is a wonderfully unaffected model for the reader; not forced but simple and unselfconscious. Moose’s mixed feelings towards Natalie are well-depicted, as is his genuine amazement and joy as she begins to progress. His final scheme, involving Capone, successfully picks up on an earlier ploy of Piper’s.
The author’s note at the end of the book shows thorough research regarding the Alcatraz of the ’30s, and explains her particular interest in autism. This incidentally introduces the young reader to academic referencing should they wish to find out more. A warm, affectionate introduction to an increasingly common condition, presented with humour and realism.