CHILDREN’S BOOK REVIEW
Author gives portrait of children who grew up at Alcatraz Island
CHILDREN OF ALCATRAZ:
GROWING UP ON THE ROCK.
By Claire Rudolf Murphy.
Walker, 60 pages, $17.95, hardcover.
By Jenny Morris
Special to The Daily
Claire Rudolf Murphy became intrigued with Alcatraz Island on a field trip with her students when she learned that the “Rock,” once home to Al Capone, was also home to many children.
“Children of Alcatraz: Growing up on the Rock” traces the known history of Alcatraz Island, giving glimpses into the lives of children living there. Understandably, most of Murphy’s information from primary sources is from the 1930s on. Her research garnered many photographs and personal remembrances of childhood adventures.
The impression the book gives is that life on Alcatraz was normal for children. In fact, with the view of San Francisco and ocean all around, it was great. As Vivian Ashford, who was 13 when she first arrived on the island, recalled at her 100th birthday party: “The happiest days of my life were spent on Alcatraz.”
The most interesting episodes recounted in this book are between the children and the convicts. The convicts were the children’s barbers and baby sitters, as well as a threat to family safety at times.
But Alcatraz has been more than a federal prison. Children also were present during the use of Alcatraz Island when it was a military post, on up to its use as a protest site by Native Americans in the 1970s. And, as the author knows first hand, children are still found on Alcatraz Island when they visit this part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
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