Al Capone Does My Homework

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9780142425220: Al Capone Does My Homework

Alcatraz Island in the 1930s isn't the most normal place to grow up, but it's home for Moose Flanagan, his autistic sister, Natalie, and all the families of the guards. When Moose's dad gets promoted to Associate Warden, despite being an unlikely candidate, it's a big deal. But the cons have a point system for targeting prison employees, and his dad is now in serious danger. After a fire starts in the Flanagan's apartment, Natalie is blamed, and Moose bands with the other kids to track down the possible arsonist. Then Moose gets a cryptic note from the notorious Al Capone himself. Is Capone trying to protect Moose's dad too? If Moose can't figure out what Capone's note means, it may be too late.

The last heart-pounding installment in the New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor-winning Alcatraz trilogy is not to be missed!

"Superlative historical fiction." -- School Library Journal (starred review for Al Capone Shines My Shoes)

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About the Author:

Gennifer Choldenko is the New York Times bestselling and Newbery Honor Award-winning author of ten children's books, including Notes From a Liar and Her Dog, If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period, No Passengers Beyond this Point, Al Capone Does My Shirts, Al Capone Shines My Shoes, and Al Capone Does My Homework. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1. The Warden’s Son

Sunday, January 19, 1936

Today is my dad’s first official day as associate warden on Alcatraz Island, home to anyone who is anyone in the criminal world. On our island we have world-famous robbers, thieves, swindlers, sharpshooters, second-story burglars, mad-dog murderers, plus a whole lot of ordinary criminals—vicious but not well-known.

No one ever believes I live on Alcatraz. Even my eighth-grade history teacher made me write on the chalkboard I do not live on Alcatraz two hundred times. She didn’t even apologize when she found out I wasn’t lying.

My mother couldn’t buy stockings at O’Connor and Moffat’s. They wouldn’t take her check, on account of it said: Helen Flanagan, Alcatraz Island, California. My father had trouble getting his driver’s license. They thought he was an escaped prisoner too stupid to fake his address, instead of an officer at the most notorious prison in North America.

My friend Annie was kicked out of Sunday school for saying she lived on Alcatraz. They sent her to confession. She confessed she didn’t live on Alcatraz and the next day she confessed she’d lied in confession.

Of course, Piper, the warden’s daughter, never gets in trouble for anything. Nothing sticks to her. She’s as slippery as a bar of soap.

I’m betting a guard like Darby Trixle—also known as Double Tough—doesn’t have these kinds of problems either. Darby was born in a uniform, one size too tight. My dad, on the other hand, looks like a middle-age dance instructor. You’d never expect him to carry a firearm. An accordion maybe, but not a rifle. Not that there are firearms everywhere on Alcatraz. Only up in the guard towers and the catwalks. At any given moment you are in the crosshairs down at the dock, but not up on the parade grounds.

My dad may not look the part, but as of today, he’s the number two guy on the island. Piper lords it over all the kids that she’s the warden’s daughter, but now I’m the warden’s son. Okay, the associate warden . . . but still.

In the kitchen, Dixieland band music is playing on the radio and my father is dressed in his crisp blue uniform. My mom is patiently trying to brush my sixteen-year-old sister Natalie’s hair, which she really hates.

From a distance Nat seems normal, but when you get close you start to notice things are a bit off. She rocks from side to side. She drags her chin along her chest. She won’t ever look in your eyes, and sometimes stares straight at your privates. My dad says Natalie views the world through her own personal kaleidoscope and it’s our job to see from her perspective. That sounds good until she’s counting every hairpin in the bathroom when my bladder is about to explode, or she’s lying flat on the ground in the middle of the train station when the cutest girl in school walks by.

Today, Mom and Nat are waiting for Mrs. Kelly to arrive. Mrs. Kelly is the teacher who helps her learn the social graces.

“You nervous?” I ask my father as he sits on the edge of his bed, giving his shoes a last buff. His face is newly shaved, his skin smells of soap, and his shoes are as shiny as good silver spoons, but still he keeps shining them.

“He’s fine,” my mother calls.

My father smiles as he slips his stocking feet into his shoes. “See, I’m fine,” he says, smoothing down his hair and placing his officer’s cap squarely on his head.

“You’re nervous,” I say.

“Could be,” he answers.

“You want one of Nat’s buttons . . . for luck?” Natalie collects buttons. She loves them the way I love baseball.

“Think she could spare one?”

I head back to the kitchen. “Nat, Dad needs a button. Can you let him have one?”

Nat’s head is down, inches from her plate, her eyes focused on chasing the slippery whites of her egg. My mother glares at me. “I just got her to sit down for breakfast.”

Nat wiggles out of her chair and heads into the living room. A minute later she comes back with her hand tightly closed.

She walks up to my dad, who is gulping the last of his coffee, and opens her fist to reveal one flat, four-hole button.

My father beams at her. “That’s a beaut, sweet pea,” he says, sliding it into his pocket.

“Ninety-seven,” Nat says.

“I’ll take good care of ninety-seven. You betcha. Guess I’m all set now, except for one thing.” He gives my mother an embarrassingly long kiss.

My mom smiles. “Good luck,” she says.

I follow him outside. He grins at me. “Where do you think you’re going? Think I can’t handle the job on my own, do you?”

“Of course you can handle it,” I say, though I am worried. My dad is too nice to be a warden.

I watch as he walks across the connecting balconies and turns the corner to the stairs. A minute later, he’s down below, where eight cons are sweeping the dock. Darby Trixle’s got his eye on them, barking orders through his bullhorn. He loves that bullhorn, sleeps with it under his pillow. Probably takes it to the bathroom with him too. I can just hear him: “Bowel movement approaching.”

I follow along after my dad down the stairs. Not close enough for him to notice. I don’t want him to send me back home.

“Good morning, Darby.” My father walks over for a chat.

Darby sucks his belly in and pokes his chest out. “Good morning, boss,” he says.

Will Darby be nice to me now that my dad is his boss?

Probably not.

My dad looks at all the prisoners as he talks to Darby. I know the names of some. There’s #227, Lizard, a big woolly mammoth of a guy with a puffy face and spindly legs. Annie says he ate a lizard in the rec yard once—that’s how he got his name. There’s #300, Count Lustig, a world-famous con man. And there’s #141, Indiana, who has no chin and no eyebrows. Indiana waves at me when Darby isn’t looking. But having a chinless, eyebrow-less felon wave at you is not fun, believe me.

I’m not the only guy watching all of this either. Donny Caconi is on the 64 building phone, but his eyes are tracking the cons. Donny is the grown son of Mrs. Caconi, the lady who knocks on your door if the phone is for you. Since she weighs more than a river barge, and there are a lot of steps in 64 building, this is impressive. Mrs. Caconi’s husband used to be a guard here, but he got transferred and she didn’t go with him. Nobody knows why.

Donny is tall, thin, and graceful as a girl—the opposite of his mother—and he dresses snappy like he has loads of girlfriends. He nods his head at me as if I’m his long-lost friend. Donny is everybody’s long-lost friend. We all really like him.

Dad finishes his conversation and heads up the switchback.

Then I see Count Lustig motion to Darby. Darby rolls his eyes at the Count but walks his way. With Darby’s back turned, Indiana spits on the dock behind my father. Lizard and another con with red hair laugh.

My father glances back at them, his brow furrowed. He knows something happened, but he’s not sure what. He’s too far up the road to do anything anyway . . . but I’m not.

A little voice in my head tells me this is not my business and I should stay out of it. But that little voice doesn’t understand how I’m the warden’s son now, and I have to start acting like it.

My feet step over the white painted line that we’re not supposed to cross when the cons are down here.

“Don’t do that!” I tell Indiana in my most threatening voice, but I’m so nervous, it comes out wibbly-wobbly.

Indiana looks at me with his chinless, eyebrow-less face. Lizard cocks his head toward Indiana as if to say Take a look at that kid.

Darby half walks, half runs toward me, his tight blue officer’s jacket bristling. “Get outta here.” He waves me back in short angry motions.

“He spit at my father,” I say. But when I look at Indiana, his face is perfectly blank, like he doesn’t speak our language.

“Your father needs his kid to take care of him?” Trixle barks.

“He didn’t see it. I did.”

Trixle shakes his head, then waggles his finger at me. “I don’t care what you see. You stay out of the dock area when the cons are down here, because I sure as heck don’t need your help.”

My arms are shaking and my legs feel like tapioca pudding. I retreat back across the line as fast as my shaky legs will take me.



2. America’s Roughest Prison

Sunday, January 19, 1936

“Darby’s a blowhard. Just ignore him,” Donny says when he catches up to me on the parade grounds—a big cement area in the middle level of the island where we play ball and roller skate and stuff.

Donny came up here just to talk to me?

Donny hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be a kid, the way most grown-ups have. I wish he lived here all the time, but at least he visits a couple of days a week to get his laundry done. On Alcatraz, the convicts do our laundry, except for Mrs. Caconi’s. She doesn’t want convicts touching her clothes. But Donny doesn’t care. He doesn’t mind who does his laundry, so long as it isn’t him.

“Darby bugs me,” I say.

Donny nods. “Darby’s a piece of work. He’s got his sights on your dad. He was sure that job was his.”

This is what I think too, but having an adult tell me in so many words . . . that’s another thing entirely.

“You keep an eye out. He’s a good man, your father, and I wouldn’t want anything to happen to him.”

“Wh-what are you worried will happen?”

“He’s in a tight spot is all. He’s got the cons on one side testing him. And Darby on the other hankering for his job.” Donny angles his hat over one eye. If my father tried that, he’d look silly. Donny Caconi never looks silly.

“Moose.” My mom waves me down, half running toward us from the back side of 64 building. “I need you home.”

“Now? I’ve only been gone for five minutes.”

Donny gives me a sly smile. “I got a mother like that. Drives you crazy, doesn’t it?”

It’s so good to hear him say this. He knows just how I feel.

“Better step to it. You know she isn’t going to give up until she has you where she wants you.”

 

When I get back to #2E, Nat is in the bathroom flushing the toilet once, twice, three times. Natalie goes to the Esther P. Marinoff, a boarding school for kids who are unusual the way she is. But, most weekends she gets to come home, and then I’m responsible for her.

“Natalie,” I yell, “quit it.”

The flushing stops and she moves to her favorite part of every room: the light switch. On-off, on-off. She’ll stand there until next Christmas if you let her.

“No funny business,” Mrs. Kelly says. Mrs. Kelly is the size of a gnome compared to my mom, who is tall and graceful. Nat comes out of the bathroom and begins to rock from one foot to the other, exploring her lip with her teeth.

“We need your help with the eye contact situation,” Mrs. Kelly informs me. She never says hello or how are you. She just launches right in with what she wants you to do. For a person who is supposed to teach the social graces, she is pretty darn abrupt.

Just once I wish she’d ask about me and not only about Natalie. It’s like I have Natalie’s brother tattooed to my forehead.

“We have to work twice as hard now, Moose. Natalie’s the warden’s daughter. She can’t call attention to herself. She has to learn to blend in,” my mom says.

Natalie blend in? Is she joking? “Doesn’t Nat work on eye contact at school?” I offer.

“She’s off this week, so I thought we could use this opportunity to work on this at home. You are such a nice young man. I knew you’d help us.” Mrs. Kelly smiles as if I’ve already agreed.

Donny Caconi just got through telling me I need to watch out for my dad. How am I supposed to take care of him and Natalie too?

My mom’s eyes are drilling into me. Clearly I’m not leaving here until I do what they want.

“Something with math,” I suggest. “We could make flash cards with long numbers written on them and hold them above our eyes. Natalie would have to look at the numbers while we’re talking. She’d get used to looking at people’s eyes rather than at their shoes.”

Mrs. Kelly nods at my mother, then looks back to me. “Get her in the habit . . . is that it?”

“Yeah, maybe we can, you know, get her interested in counting eyebrow hairs or something.”

Mrs. Kelly doesn’t crack a smile. She has the sense of humor of a fire hydrant. “Flash cards might work.” She nods. “Want to give it a go?”

“Me?”

Mrs. Kelly nods emphatically. “You’ve got a way with her, Moose.”

“Yeah, but . . .”

Mrs. Kelly’s nostrils flare. “Unless you can’t be bothered.”

“It might not work,” I respond lamely.

“Listen to me, you are more important to Natalie than anyone else. . . you know that, don’t you?” 

“No, I’m not,” I say.

My mother is avoiding my eyes. Maybe I should put a card on my forehead for her.

DON’T DO THIS TO ME it would say.

“How old are you?” Mrs. Kelly asks.

“Thirteen.”

“I’m sixty-two. Your mother is what?” Mrs. Kelly turns to my mother.

“Thirty-eight.”

“You do the math, Moose. You’re going to know Natalie her whole life. We won’t.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I mumble as I watch Natalie. She’s rolled up in her favorite purple blanket, which is what she does when she gets upset. 

“It means you’ll be around when we’re not,” Mrs. Kelly says in a voice tough as gristle.

“Look. I’ll do my best, but Natalie has to try. I can’t make her.”

“This is important for her. She has to learn this.” Mrs. Kelly doesn’t even seem to hear me.

“I said I’d try,” I say. “Could I be excused now?” I pounce on the door like it’s a piece of chocolate cake.

My mom barely moves her head, but I take it as a yes. The door bangs behind me and I scoot across the balconies, up the stairs, to the switchback. 

I’m headed for the warden’s house. Piper isn’t my favorite person on the island, but her father’s been a warden her whole life. He was at San Quentin before this and some other prison before that. She’ll know what I should do to watch my dad’s back.

The warden’s house is a twenty-two-room mansion at the tip-top of the island. It smells like roses, and I can hear the sound of a violin concerto coming through the open window—as if it’s on Broadway Street in Pacific Heights instead of thirty feet from the most notorious cell house in North America. I take a deep breath to calm down before knocking.

“Moose!” The warden answers the door in the three-piece suit that he wears like a uniform, his baby Walter in his arms. Even with a blue baby blanket wrapped over his shoulder, the warden is his own kind of scary.

“Why, if it isn’t young Mr. Flanagan, Walty.” The warden waves the baby’s hand at me. “Say hi to Mr. Flanagan.”

“Umm hi, Walty.” I wave back stupidly.

“Big day for the Flanagan family,” the warden says. “Think you can handle the responsibility?”

“Me?” My voice comes out strange, like I’ve sucked the air out of a balloon.

“Who else would I mean, Mr. Flanagan?” the warden asks.

“Yes, sir,” I mumble.

“Your da...

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Descripción Puffin Books, United States, 2014. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Alcatraz Island in the 1930s isn t the most normal place to grow up, but it s home for Moose Flanagan, his autistic sister, Natalie, and all the families of the guards. When Moose s dad gets promoted to Associate Warden, despite being an unlikely candidate, it s a big deal. But the cons have a point system for targeting prison employees, and his dad is now in serious danger. After a fire starts in the Flanagan s apartment, Natalie is blamed, and Moose bands with the other kids to track down the possible arsonist. Then Moose gets a cryptic note from the notorious Al Capone himself. Is Capone trying to protect Moose s dad too? If Moose can t figure out what Capone s note means, it may be too late. The last heart-pounding installment in the New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor-winning Alcatraz trilogy is not to be missed! Superlative historical fiction. -- School Library Journal (starred review for Al Capone Shines My Shoes). Nº de ref. de la librería ABZ9780142425220

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Descripción Puffin Books, United States, 2014. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Alcatraz Island in the 1930s isn t the most normal place to grow up, but it s home for Moose Flanagan, his autistic sister, Natalie, and all the families of the guards. When Moose s dad gets promoted to Associate Warden, despite being an unlikely candidate, it s a big deal. But the cons have a point system for targeting prison employees, and his dad is now in serious danger. After a fire starts in the Flanagan s apartment, Natalie is blamed, and Moose bands with the other kids to track down the possible arsonist. Then Moose gets a cryptic note from the notorious Al Capone himself. Is Capone trying to protect Moose s dad too? If Moose can t figure out what Capone s note means, it may be too late. The last heart-pounding installment in the New York Times bestselling, Newbery Honor-winning Alcatraz trilogy is not to be missed! Superlative historical fiction. -- School Library Journal (starred review for Al Capone Shines My Shoes). Nº de ref. de la librería ABZ9780142425220

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