Dead End In Norvelt

Dead End In Norvelt

Winner of the 2012 Newbery Medal

Want a book that zips up and slides down and is constantly shifting with humor, gore and personal growth? Here ya go. Our main character, Jack Gantos, opens the story wielding a pair of binoculars in the direction of a drive in movie theater. He's watching another of his favorite World War II in the Pacific Theater movies and when the Japanese soldiers emerge and begin their attack, Jack hoists an old World War II Army rifle and pulls the trigger with his eye firmly fixed on the attacker on the screen. To his shock and the shock of his mother and his own nose which begins to bleed profusely, a bullet flies from the rifle and screams off in the direction of his neighbor's home. An ambulance arrives. Has he killed her?

Jack is about to be grounded and he'll be even more grounded when he follows his father's command to use the family tractor to mow down his mother's prized cornfield. He wants to use the cornfield space as a landing strip for his newly purchased and well-hidden vintage airplane. We're now talking Jack grounded for life and sentenced by his parents to two months of helping the neighbor lady type obituaries for the venerable townsfolk who are dropping like flies.

This is going to be an amazing learning experience for Jack involving the Hell's Angels, Eleanor Roosevelt, a cute girl with a father who runs the local funeral parlor and the possibility that a murderer lurks in their midst. This is a hilarious coming of age story based partly on fact and partly contrived of fiction. Jack Gantos did live in Norvelt, Pennsylvania, so he knows of what he writes. Hilarious, gross, imaginative and something Jack Gantos himself would have loved while growing up. Perfect for readers who need a fast paced read with lots of unexpected twists and plenty of entertainment factor.

341 pages 978-0374379933 Ages 10 and up

Recommended by: Barb Langridge,

Twelve-year-old Jack Gantos spends the summer of 1962 grounded for shooting his father’s Japanese souvenir rifle and mowing down his mother’s corn field. Somewhat auto-biographical, Gantos humorously portrays life in a small planned community founded by and named after Eleanor Roosevelt.

While he is grounded, Jack’s mother loans him to an elderly neighbor with arthritis to help write the town’s obituaries. Jack’s nose bleeds when he is stressed and he has a lot to be stressed about that summer --- from forced to drive Miss Volker to see the recently deceased to riding in his father’s homemade airplane. Lots of laughs with history added.

Will appeal to boys looking for adventure and fans of Gordon Korman.   352 pages

ISBN:  978-0374379933

Reviewed by:  Kathy Nester, Librarian, Pennsylvania, USA


“Plenty of shocks and excitement are coming Jack’s way once his mother loans him out to help a feisty old neighbor with an unusual chore – typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launched on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels, and possibly murder.”

In a summer where he is “grounded for life” Jack Gantos (no relation to the author, of course) discovers more about the history of his community, Norvelt, PA (named after EleaNOR RooseVELT) when his mother hires him out to an elderly neighbor whose rheumatoid arthritis prevents her from fulfilling her promise to Eleanor Roosevelt that she will record the history of the town. Jack’s job is to type up obituaries for the original residents of Norvelt, who sadly, are dying off like flies. Although a little slow to get into, once the reader wades in he might as well just dive in and follow poor Jack on his wacky adventures. This book entertains the reader while providing a little history at the same time.

Recommended by Alice L. Cyphers, Librarian, Pennsylvania, USA


School is out, the first day of summer vacation and Jack is already grounded for live. Jack’s imaginary play with his father’s WWII Japanese rifle just happened to have live ammo in it. Being grounded for the summer doesn’t keep Jack from a number of adventures, he helps the elderly neighbor, Miss Volker, write obituaries for the newspaper,  accompanies her on her Medical Examiner visits, driving her car even though Jack is too young to drive, and helps solve the mystery of why old ladies are dying. Jack’s age is not given, but he seems to be in late elementary or early middle school.

There is enough action in this book to keep readers happy. Multiple threads (nosebleeds, dad’s airplane, grumpy Mr. Spinzz, police charges, and a can of 1080) are established early in the book and comfortably brought together at the end,. Chapters run between 12-15 pages.

352 pages

ISBN: 978-0374379933

Recommended by:  Barbara Fiehn, Librarian, Kentucky, USA

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