Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013. 978-0374379940.
Synopsis: Just when Jack Gantos thought that his world had (mostly) righted itself, things start to get crazy again. In a series of events which includes an explosion that cancels school, a new old lady murder, and the death of Eleanor Roosevelt, Jack finds himself in the company of his neighbor Miss Volker. And this time, they’re going on a road trip to write an obit for their town’s founder and to catch the outlaw responsible for making her the last original Norvelter.
Why I picked it up: I really enjoyed Dead End in Norvelt and I was eager to read more about Jack’s strange adventures with Miss Volker.
Why I finished it: As a generalization, the stakes in sequels tend to be higher than their predecessors and in many cases, there is a heightened anticipation for the characters and the plot to be taken to the next level. Gantos certainly steps up the excitement and the sense of adventure, and has also found a way to deepen the relationships between the characters. The friendship that we saw developing between Jack and Miss Volker was definitely something special for both of them, though I doubt that either of them would outright acknowledge it. Generational gap aside, Jack and Miss Volker have a sort of symbiotic teacher/pupil relationship that allows for Jack to be pushed further toward his potential and Miss Volker to stay young. He’s much more than the companion he thinks he is, something he comes to realize as they journey further and further on their road trip together. And while neither finds what they are expecting at the close of the book, it’s evident that they have grown in more positive ways and become different people from when they set out from Norvelt. Gantos’s ability to write about people and how they connect is what draws the reader into his stories. Sure, they are funny, crazy, and even somewhat out-of-control at times, but in truth, it’s not much different from our own lives. It’s a feel good story that takes us on a wild ride in search of answers for which we may or may not already have the question.
Other related materials: Dead End in Norvelt 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; Jack’s New Power: Stories from a Caribbean Year by Jack Gantos; Jack’s Black Book: What Happens When You Flunk an IQ Test? by Jack Gantos; Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos; Joey Pigza Loses Control by Jack Gantos; What Would Joey Do? by Jack Gantos; I Am Not Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos; The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos; Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo; The Crossover by Kwame Alexander; One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia; P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia; Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko; The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes; A Long Way From Chicago by Richard Peck; A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck; A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck