Moose Flanagan, the protagonist of the story, is big for his age and has brown/blonde hair and brown eyes. Moose is a normal seventh grader who loves to play baseball, and although he has an outgoing and witty personality, he worries about making friends at his new school. Moose is unhappy that the Flanagans have moved to Alcatraz Island, but he has learned that, in his family, the needs of his sister, Natalie, come before those of anyone else. Moose longs for attention from his busy father and consideration of any kind from his harried mother, but in practice it seems that he is recognized only for the help that he can provide in meeting his sister’s needs. At the age of twelve, Moose is expected to be the sole caretaker of sixteen-year-old Natalie every day after school. Because of this, it is difficult for him to make friends, and he is forced to give up playing baseball with his hard-won new acquaintances at his school. Oftentimes, Moose is consumed with rage, feeling that “no matter how hard [he] work[s], it's never enough.” To compound his problems, he harbors a deep-seated sense of guilt that he is somehow the cause of his sister's troubles. Despite his frustrations and rightful indignation at the way he is treated, Moose is remarkably dependable and resilient for a child of his age. The expectations placed on him may be unreasonable and unrealistic, but Moose always manages to come through. Moose is intelligent, sensible, and capable of tremendous empathy; he sees his sister as a different but eminently valuable individual; and unlike his mother, he is able to accept and love her as she is.

Natalie, like Moose, has brown/blonde hair, but her eyes are a brilliant green. The particular manifestation of her disability is evident in her mannerisms: “she holds her mouth too open and her shoulders uneven,” and when she is agitated, she has the habit of digging her chin viciously into her collarbone. Natalie has an uncanny understanding of all things having to do with numbers. She can solve complex math problems spontaneously in her head, loves studying the indexes of books, and can spend hours making...

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