Reviews

All aboard to Alcatraz! Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Choldenko, G. Al Capone Does My Shirts. Puffin Books, 2006. 228 pages. Hardcover 2004 $15.34, ISBN 978-0-399-23861-1; Hardcover 2000 $15.45, ISBN  978-0-7569-7020-8;  Tr. $6.84, ISBN  978-0-14-240370-9; PLB $13.06, ISBN 978-1-41566-588-6

TL;DR: Do I recommend this book? Yes

Genre: Historical Fiction

Part of a series? Yes — Al Capone at Alcatraz series

Plot Summary:

Moose Flanagan finds himself living on Alcatraz alongside the worst of the worst criminals when his dad needs a new job … and his sister needs a new school. Natalie Flanagan has been ten years old for quite some time, as keeping Natalie “ten years old” is her mother’s best chance at getting Natalie the help that she needs. Natalie is different, and since no one has been able to accurately diagnose her or prescribe a cure, the Flanagans are trying everything they can to give Natalie a normal life. For Moose, this means moving from home in Santa Monica all the way out to Alcatraz, taking a boat into school in San Francisco everyday with Piper, the warden’s daughter and a girl who is more trouble than she’s worth. Can Natalie get the help she needs (and is it the help being given to her?)? (Plus — will Moose ever meet Al Capone?!)

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This book was a great read. There are some elements of it that are tough — namely, how people treat Natalie as well as the focus on “fixing” her, but it also reads as historically accurate, as many of the ways that we as a community discuss autistic people and their differences from “neurologically typical” people are still in the process of acknowledging autistic people as people who think differently, rather than “broken” people who need to be prevented or fixed. The presentation of Alcatraz is delicious, and Moose is as fantastic narrator. His love for his sister is obvious, as is his frustration with Piper, his struggles with his mother’s treatment of him (and his sister), and his desire to live a normal life.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This is a great historical fiction pick especially for my students as we are located in San Francisco and have a clear view of the island! The neighborhoods discussed in the book are close to our school, so it’s a fun look back at what San Francisco and Alcatraz were like. This would be a fun reading circle book. Perhaps an activity for this book would be to look at photos of “old” San Francisco and to then compare them to photos now … perhaps even taking part in a San Francisco scavenger hunt and/or trip to Alcatraz with parental supervision and permission! (Given our proximity to the island, this could happen for our group.) (Idea from myself)

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Books, 2005

Kirkus Reviews starred 3/1/04

Library Media Connection starred 11/1/04

Newbery Honor, 2005

Publishers Weekly starred 2/2/04

School Library Journal starred 3/1/04

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Reviews

On the Run: Maniac Magee

Spinelli, Jerry. Maniac Magee. Little, Brown, 1990. 184 pages. Hardcover $15.34, ISBN 978-0-316-80722-7; Tr. $6.85, ISBN 978-0-316-80906-1; PLB $12.31, ISBN 978-0-7587-0201-2

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Historical Fiction

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

Jeffrey L. Magee has a normal family until an accident leaves him without parents. His aunt and uncle are so cold to one another that one day he starts running and doesn’t stop. His running — along with his fearlessness, knot-untying prowess, and goodness — inspire kids all around to call him Maniac. He meets people, eats with generous families, bonds with the Beales in the East End and Grayson in the West End. He learns about racism, helps kids stay motivated to go to school, learns about baseball from a Minor League legend, and kisses a baby buffalo. Maniac’s story is larger-than-life.

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This is another solid novel from the master Jerry Spinelli. Maniac’s story is told like a legend — there are many references to “people say,” “some will tell you,” and other staples of a tall (city) tale. Maniac deals with homelessness and manages to always find the good in people (if there is good to find). 

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a great book to use for a unit on bravery. Maniac never gives up, not even when he feels like he has no place and no one to call on for help. While the story is fictional, it gives a great view into life as a child in a difficult situation and a difficult time. This would be a great way to open the door to conversations in the library or the classroom about tough topics such as homelessness, racism, and prejudice. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 5-8

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred

Newbery Medal, 1991

 

Other Notes:

Children drink beer; there is a situation in which a father is a racist alcoholic who is literally arming his children for the “revolt” when the African-American residents of the East End will charge the West End. In these scenes, he and many of the children drink beer and talk about violence.

 

Reviews referenced:

Berman, M. (n. d.). Maniac Magee (Review of the book Maniac Magee). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/maniac-magee

Kirkus Reviews. (1990, March 15). Maniac Magee (Review of the book Maniac Magee). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/jerry-spinelli/maniac-magee/


Reviews

Heat by Mike Lupica

Lupica, Mike. Heat. Puffin Books, c2006/p2007. 220 pages. Hardcover $15.34, ISBN 978-0-399-24301-1; Tr. $5.19, ISBN 978-0-14-240757-8; PLB $13.01, ISBN 978-1-42872-024-4

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Sports novel

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

This book is a glimpse into the life of a boy who is hiding something … but not the secret that everyone expects. In all honesty, this is one that was better to read than listen to. While the narrator’s voice was great for Michael’s stream-of-consciousness moments, the speaker could not make conversations clear and smooth, so I had to switch to reading it myself. Michael is a typical kid dealing with things no twelve-year-old should have to. Fortunately, he has his love of baseball to help him get by.

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Featuring a wise-talking best friend, a grandmotherly neighbor, and plenty of well-meaning adults, this novel explores what it means to be a kid with a secret…a dangerous secret, one that could ruin his life if it got out. Michael’s anxieties are very real, and while his best friend Manny injects humor into these serious situations, they are also handled sensitively by Lupica. Allowing for real stress and some sitcom-esque hijinks is a delicate blend, but Lupica pulls it off. While many of the baseball terms go over the head of a reader who doesn’t watch the game, it was still an immersive read.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

Book clubs could use this book and create vision boards (much like how Mrs. C plays a game with Michael where they envision his dreams coming true). They can either opt to discuss their vision boards or keep them secret, but they will spend “club” time making their boards. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 5-8

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2007

Booklist starred 4/1/06

 

Reviews referenced:

Berman, M. (n. d.). Heat (Review of the book Heat). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/heat

Kirkus Reviews. (2006, March 1). Heat (Review of the book Heat). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/mike-lupica/heat-5/

 

Reviews

Hit it out of the park: The Ballpark Cookbook

Jorgensen, Katrina. Ballpark Cookbook: The American League: Recipes Inspired by Baseball Stadium Foods. Capstone Press (a Capstone Imprint), 2016. 63 pages. PLB $24.04, ISBN 978-1-49148-232-2

Interest Level: 3-6

Cuisine: Fast Food

This book contains recipes for foods inspired by snacks available at various baseball stadiums. While I was not able to evaluate this book in person, it sounded like a wonderful addition to any collection, especially in a library where some readers might want to learn more about foods but not necessarily prepare them (as Horn Book Guide points out, this book is “not for novice cooks”). The recipes that I could see on an Amazon book preview looked varied and interesting, and the photographs looked clear. It sounded like a fun and interesting addition to this purchase order, especially as I have already planned on ordering other themed cookbooks (Harry Potter, the “Gross” cakes, and the U.S. History themed cookbook). This book will have factoids to satisfy our Weird But True fans, and the actual recipes will be exciting experiments for our young chefs, particularly sports fans who might not yet have had a chance to visit other stadiums.

 

Reviews Referenced:

Horn Book Guide. (2016). (untitled) (Review of the book Ballpark Cookbook: The American League: Recipes Inspired by Baseball Stadium Foods). Horn Book      Guide, 27(2). Retrieved from http://www.hbook.com/horn-book-guide/

Willey, P. (2016, Apr. 12). Make me! Arts & activities | Series nonfiction. School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://www.slj.com/2016/04/reviews/series-  made-simple/make-me-arts-activities-series-nonfiction/