“Today I moved to a twelve-acre rock covered with cement, topped with bird turd and surrounded by water. I’m not the only kid who lives here. There’s my sister, Natalie, except she doesn’t count. And there are twenty-three other kids who live on the island because their dads work as guards or cooks or doctors or electricians for the prison, like my dad does. Plus, there are a ton of murderers, rapists, hit men, con men, stickup men, embezzlers, connivers, burglars, kidnappers and maybe even an innocent man or two, though I doubt it. The convicts we have are the kind other prisons don’t want. I never knew prisons could be picky, but I guess they can. You get to Alcatraz by being the worst of the worst. Unless you’re me. I came here because my mother said I had to.” (Al Capone Does My Shirts, by Gennifer Choldenko)
I’m guessing that barren, foreboding Alcatraz Island isn’t at the top of most people’s dream vacation list—unless, like me, they are captivated by history and fascinated by the exploits of hardened criminals. The boat ride across San Francisco Bay was chilly, to say the least. It also took a bit longer than I expected but gave me a sense of what it must have been like for those who made the journey before me–with one glaring difference. I knew I was heading back to the mainland in a few hours. I had just finished reading a fascinating book, “Al Capone Does My Shirts,” on the flight to San Francisco and felt like I stepped off of the boat right into the story. (The book is written for kids, but a great read for adults as well.) All in all, an intriguing visit with lots of incredible stories–36 men participated in 14 escape attempts with no known successes. Twenty-three were caught, six were shot and killed during escape attempts, and two drowned.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts if you have read the book or the series and/or visited Alcatraz…