Dead End in Norvelt Review

DeadEndinNorveltNewberyDead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011. 0374379939

Winner of the 2012 John Newbery Award

Synopsis: Jack is in big trouble: he borrowed his father’s Japanese rifle that he brought back from the war in the Pacific and accidently fired a shot at the multiplex screen. Now, he’s grounded for the summer and his mother has loaned him out to their neighbor Miss Volker, who writes the obituaries for the local paper. Jack is sure he is in for a bummer summer, but after a few weeks with Miss Volker, he begins to realize just how much these three months will change him.

Why I picked it up: It was on the list of Newbery winners and I thought it would be worth a read.

Why I finished it: Unfortunately for me, I got sidetracked by Olympic Curling and it took me a while to finish the book, but when I did, I was pleasantly surprised. Gantos clearly remembers what it was like to be an eleven-year-old boy, evidenced by the mischief and mayhem of his younger self. I’ve never been grounded for an entire summer, but I rather imagine that it’s just as much ‘fun’ as Gantos makes it out to be. He’s in a town that’s slowly being shipped off piece by piece as its residents die off and he’s been sentenced to three months of chores – not an ideal way to spend the summer – but he’s finding that there is more to the town than meets the eye. Yes, Norvelt isn’t exactly a thriving metropolis, but his friendship with Miss Volker changes the way he sees the town, its inhabitants, and history as a whole. The story is full of heart and humor, mixing reality with fiction, and it takes the reader back to a simpler time when children could still drive cars down the street without fear of being pulled over and there was always something more to learn about the people we had thought we had known for years.

Other related materials: From Norvelt to Nowhere by Jack Gantos; Jack Adrift: Fourth Grade Without a Clue by Jack Gantos; Jack on the Tracks: Four Seasons of Fifth Grade by Jack Gantos; Heads or Tails: Stories from the Sixth Grade by Jack Gantos; Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool; The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate;  Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt; One Crazy Summer by Rita Garcia-Williams Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins; A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck; A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck; The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg;  Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis


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