My first read was Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko, a book that I have passed by for the past year or so, never before being interested. Now that I'm actually working in a profession that requires my knowledge of books that have won awards and honors (this won the Newbery Honor), I finally picked it up and am SO glad that I did!
The story begins when Moose's family moves from San Franciso to Alcatraz Island in order for his father to begin a job at the prison. Moose hated leaving his friends behind, but soon begins making acquaintances with the other children living on the island. The only issue standing in his way to becoming a normal kid that fits in with the other kids is his very "abnormal" sister Natalie. In today's terms it would be said that Natalie had autism, but in the 1930's she is simply deemed as being odd and Moose is in charge of her well-being while his parents work. With Natalie constantly following him, Moose and his new friends make the attempt to make contact with some of the famous inmates of Alcatraz prison, including the infamous Al Capone.
Choldenko created a story that is very much a reality in a lot of kids lives, even in today's terms. The characters are real, as are their situations. Moose is a kid that really wants to fit in, meaning he will get himself into many mishaps, but always trying to do what is morally right. He loves his sister and only wants the best for her, vowing to do anything to try and get her a normal life. I really loved the characterization of this story, not to mention the unique plot line. I would definitely read other books by this author and hope she has something new out soon!
Next, we have Among the Betrayed by Margaret Peterson Haddix. I only recently got into the Shadow Children series, loving the first and second books and this third companion novel was no exception. It was fast paced, thrilling, and definitely a page turner!
Haddix takes a turn away from following the young boy, Lee Grant, and this time focuses on Nina, a shadow child that was arrested in the 2nd book. The reader watches as she is thrown and jail and threatened with execution if she does not find out information from 3 other shadow children being kept in the same jail. Nina is placed in a cell with them and bribed with food in order to get the 3 siblings to answer her questions. Nina, being a very moral individual, hates the idea of betraying others, especially those that have a background much like her own. When Nina gets the opportunity to escape the jail, we learn whether or not she has the ability to betray or instead will risk her own life to help 3 others.
I love this series because of the thrills it gives with every page. It is an awesome series for reluctant readers, with enough books to keep them occupied for awhile! I was very happy with this book and look forward to the next, Among the Barons, which is another Summer Reading Challenge selection.