Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Gail the Witch Rides Again

I have actually read a Newbery Honor Book within two weeks of the award announcements. This is very cutting edge for me. Unfortunately, as usual, I wasn't quite as in love with the thing as everyone else.

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko has a fantastic premise--it's a historical novel about children living on Alcatraz Island back in the day when it was a federal prison and not a national park as it is now. I had no idea families of prison employees lived there, and I think it's a wonderful idea for a novel. The children involved with Choldenko's Alcatraz story are excellent, realistic characters. I had great hopes for Piper, the warden's manipulative yet strangely attractive daughter.

I wish I could have seen more of all these kids and heard more about their adventures on the island.

However, in addition to their story there is another story in this book. The main character, Moose, has an older sister, Natalie, who is autistic and we see how their family is seeking help for her back in the 1930s when there wasn't a lot of help to be had for people with her condition. This is actually a good story, too.

But when Moose and Natalie's story is on center stage, the Alcatraz story disappears. The stories are almost unrelated--though they are connected in a rather forced way at the end--because Natalie's story really had nothing to do with Alcatraz. Her story could have taken place anywhere.

I kept wishing that the author had written two books instead of one.

Once again, Gail appears to be the only person in the world who feels this way. This book was a Newbery Honor Book, remember, and all the reviews I've seen have been raves.

I hit the library again today and picked up another Newbery Honor Book I can bash later in the week.

1 comment:

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