Monday, February 13, 2012

Review of Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Dead End in Norvelt
by Jack Gantos
4 Scribbles
Won the Newberry Award in 2012.
Jack’s a super-nice kid, but he breaks a rule that gets him grounded for the entire summer! His only reprieve from endless yard chores and reading is to help the nutty old neighbor lady, Mrs. Volker, write obituaries for the town’s quickly-dying elderly population. What the two journalists don’t realize is that something creepy is happening in Norvelt, and the deaths of Norvelt’s elderly may not just be a coincidence. Part memoir, part historical fiction, middle-grade readers will be transported back in time to the 1960s where life was simpler—and a lot funnier. It’s easy to admire Jack’s tenderness, how he risks personal punishment rather than hurt another living creature, his patience with parents who are constantly feuding at his expense, and the tender way he cares for Mrs. Volker. Girls and Guys alike will laugh at tricycle-riding Mr. Spitz, Jack’s constantly bleeding nose, his tough-as-nails BFF, Bunny, and the obligatory bit of bathroom humor. One of the major themes in the story is how history is still a part of, and helps to shape, the present—a point illustrated via the setting of Norvelt, Pennsylvania, the real town where Jack grew up. In fact, Norvelt was founded in the 1930s by the U.S. Government during the Great Depression to help laid-off Coal Miners, and it is still there! To see pictures of Norvelt and learn more about Jack’s hometown, check out this website.

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