It's 1935 and Moose Flanagan is twelve years old when his family moves to Alcatraz Island, where his dad has gotten a job as an electrician/guard. There are other families on the island, other kids even, and every day, Moose and the other kids take the ferry over to San Fransisco for school. It gives them a little bit of cache at with the kids--the idea that they live on Alcatraz, next door to murderers, kidnappers, bank robbers, and even Al Capone himself.
But Moose wants a regular life--he wants to go home, to be honest, back to where he had lots of friends and got to play baseball every day, and where his grandma lived just down the street, so that Moose didn't have to take care of his older sister, Natalie. Yeah, older, but Natalie can't watch out for herself; she's trapped in her own world, something we'd call autism today, but there wasn't any such diagnosis, then. Natalie was supposed to have been living in a school for kids like her--that was the whole reason they moved in the first place--but it didn't work out, and it's driving Moose's mom a little crazy. And watching Natalie by himself all the time is driving Moose a little crazy, and working all the time and having his family go crazy around him is driving his dad a little crazy.
And then there's Piper, the Warden's daughter, who has crazy schemes that are going to get all the kids on Alcatraz thrown in with the cons. Like Moose needs anything else to worry about.
Ohh, man, I loved this book like crazy. CRAZY. I loved Moose; I was right there with him, I understood every single motivation he had and every move he made. I wanted to shake his mom and scream at her, "He's a KID for Christ's sake," but I got her, too. I felt sorry for her. I think Natalie was realistically drawn, loved the Alcatraz kids (especially Teresa), but I think my favorite character was Moose's dad. Who was, to be honest, not in the book much, but every time he was, he broke my heart. Amazing.