Monday, June 5, 2017

Nonfiction Monday: Escape from Alcatraz: The mystery of the three men who escaped from the rock by Eric Braun

In the early morning hours at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, a shocking discovery was made; three prisoners had escaped!

How had these three men, Frank Morris, John Anglin, and Clarence Anglin managed to escape from a prison that was deemed unbreakable? Did they survive and go on to live new lives or did they die during the escape? This nonfiction narrative explores the historical and current investigation and the results of this historical escape.

Braun takes readers on a moment-by-moment reenactment of the prisoners' conspiracy, plans, and elaborate creation of tools, supplies, and escape tunnels. The story of the escape is followed by the police investigation and speculation as to the fate of the men, including ongoing investigation of their whereabouts. The story concludes with the unsolved mystery - did the three men escape? Are they still alive somewhere in the United States or South America? Or did they die in the icy waters of the bay, only a short distance from freedom?

An epilogue addresses the wider results of the escape; the closing of Alcatraz, and fates of the other inmates involved in or peripheral to the escape. Back matter includes a bibliography, additional photographs of both men and the evidence of their escape, a glossary, suggestions for further reading, critical thinking questions, and an index.

While this is an exciting and fast-paced story of ingenious creativity and investigation, something about it just bothered me. In the end, I think it was the presentation of the escape without any of the wider issues surrounding incarceration and crime mentioned, beyond some references to the men's early lives and personalities. I'm not much of a true crime reader, which may be why this didn't appeal as much to me personally, but if I was using this in a classroom I'd want more discussion of the moral and ethical issues, rather than just the nitty-gritty of the escape.

Verdict: This is likely to appeal to readers who like true crime or enjoy docudramas about prisoners (and yes, there are plenty of kids who fall into that category). It is available in paperback and would make a good addition to a narrative nonfiction collection for popular perusal.

ISBN: 9781515745518; Published 2017 by Capstone; Review copy provided by publisher

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