Newberry Award Winner 2012: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

This week is National Children’s Book Week. I’m happy to share the word and throw a little light on a group of books that has given me so many pleasurable reading hours. I didn’t leave those books behind when I became an adult. I find many of them to be among the most entertaining books around. I hope you’ll find the time this week to indulge in a good children’s book. A good place to start is with one Newberry Medal winners, like this one by Jack Gantos.

Dead End in NorveltDead End in Norvelt is the kind of story I loved as a kid, and even more now as a senior adult. I identified with the young Jack immediately. He was curious and eager to have a fun summer. But, on the other hand, he’s very kind to his very interesting elderly neighbor, Miss Vollker. She was quite the character. She cared about Jack, although she is frank and rough with him. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First let me share the publisher’s description of the book:

During the summer of his thirteenth year, Jack Gantos is “grounded for life” by his quarreling parents until his mom loans him to an elderly neighbor for a very odd chore. Miss Volker, the arthritic town medical examiner and obituary writer, needs a typist.The last of the original town residents are dying, and the Volker and Gantos team work overtime to meet the newspaper deadlines. What once seemed like a summer of doom for Jack turns into an adventure involving dead bodies, cooked hands, poisoned rats, a homemade airplane, Hells Angels, a man on a tricycle . . . and possibly murder. Jack, a nosebleeder, spews blood with each anxious moment, but through it all he learns what it takes to be a man.

The story is set in 1962 in Norvelt, Pennsylvania. The town is a big part of the story. There is still a lot of influence left over from the Depression and World War II. Eleanor Roosevelt is one of the heroines of the town. (The town was actually named for her: eleaNor – rooseVelt.)

History is another important part of the story. When Miss Vollker writes her obituaries, she also writes “Today In History.” It’s always an interesting story. The author has made learning history fun.
Jack Gantos is the reader on this audiobook. This was a good example of the writer being the best one to read his own story. The story is part serious, part funny and part mystery. Jack Gantos kept me with him all the way to the end.

Highly recommended. Grades 4 to 8.

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One Response to Newberry Award Winner 2012: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

  1. I agree – a good story is a good story no matter what level it’s written on. I’ve had this book for too long and need to make time for it.

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