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Dead End in Norvelt
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Dead End in Norvelt
Norvelt Series, Book 1
Series: Norvelt
Creators: Jack Gantos
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Pub. date: 09/13/2011
Lib. SRP: 30.00 USD
Ret. SRP: 7.64 USD
Format: OverDrive Read
ISBN: 9781429962506
File size: 0 KB
Age Group: Children/Juvenile
Grade Range: Grade 4 - Grade 5
Languages:
   English
Subjects:
   Historical Fiction, Humor (Fiction), Young Adult Fiction
Keywords:
   Family / General (see also headings under Social T
Awards:
  Best Fiction for Young Adults (Young Adult Library Services Association), Newbery Medal (American Library Association), Notable Children's Books (Association for Library Service to Children)
Short Description:
   
Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a fiesty old neighbor with a most unusual chore--typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launced 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. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh...
Full Description:
   

Dead End in Norvelt is the winner of the 2012 Newbery Medal for the year's best contribution to children's literature and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction!

Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a fiesty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launced 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. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air.

Excerpts:
  Chapter One
     
 
 
School was finally out and I was standing on a picnic table in our backyard getting ready for a great summer vacation when my mother walked up to me and ruined it. I was holding a pair of camouflage Japanese WWII binoculars to my eyes and focusing across her newly planted vegetable garden, and her cornfield, and over ancient Miss Volker's roof, and then up the Norvelt road, and past the brick bell tower on my school, and beyond the Community Center, and the tall silver whistle on top of the volunteer fire department to the most distant dark blue hill, which is where the screen for the Viking drive-in movie theater had recently been erected.
Down by my feet I had laid out all the Japanese army souvenirs Dad had shipped home from the war. He had been in the navy, and after a Pacific island invasion in the Solomons he and some other sailor buddies had blindly crawled around at night and found a bunker of dead Japanese soldiers half buried in the sand. They stripped everything military off of them and dragged the loot back to their camp. Dad had an officer's sword with what he said was real dried blood along the razor-sharp edge of the long blade. He had a Japanese flag, a sniper's rifle with a full ammo clip, a dented canteen, a pair of dirty white gloves with a scorched hole shot right through the bloody palm of the left hand, and a color-tinted photo of an elegant Japanese woman in a kimono. Of course he also had the powerful binoculars I was using.
I knew Mom had come to ruin my fun, so I thought I would distract her and maybe she'd forget what was on her mind.
"Hey, Mom," I said matter-of-factly with the binoculars still pressed against my face, "how come blood on a sword dries red, and blood on cloth dries brown? How come?"
"Honey," Mom replied, sticking with what was on her mind, "does your dad know you have all this dangerous war stuff out?"
"He always lets me play with it as long as I'm careful," I said, which wasn't true. In fact, he never let me play with it, because as he put it, "This swag will be worth a bundle of money someday, so keep your grubby hands off it."
"Well, don't hurt yourself," Mom warned. "And if there is blood on some of that stuff, don't touch it. You might catch something, like Japanese polio."
"Don't you mean Japanese beetles?" I asked. She had an invasion of those in her garden that were winning the plant war.
She didn't answer my question. Instead, she switched back to why she came to speak to me in the first place. "I just got a call from Miss Volker. She needs a few minutes of your time in the morning, so I told her I'd send you down."
I gazed at my mom through the binoculars but she was too close to bring into focus. Her face was just a hazy pink cupcake with strawberry icing.
"And," she continued, "Miss Volker said she would give you a little something for your help, but I don't want you to take any money. You can take a slice of pie but no money. We never help neighbors for cash."
"Pie? That's all I get?" I asked. "Pie? But what if it makes her feel good to give me money?"
"It won't make me feel good if she gives you money," she stressed. "And it shouldn't make you feel good either. Helping others is a far greater reward than doing it for money."
"Okay," I said, giving in to her before she pushed me in. "What time?"
Mom looked away from me for a moment and stared over at War Chief, my uncle Will's Indian pony, who was grinding his chunky yellow teeth. He was working up a sweat from scratching his itchy side back and forth against the rough bark on a prickly oak. About a month ago my uncle visited us when he got a pass from the army. He used...
Reviews:
  DOGO Books
      borntoswim - Before reading this book I was a little skeptical, but it turned out to be an amazing book. I read it with my class, because the teacher assigned it to us and couldn't put it down. Though it isn't entirely true story, the author, Jack Gantos, used his name for the main character and some characters are based off real people. Jack, a kid who has grown up in Norvelt his whole life, and when nervous gets bloody noses, is just starting summer vacation. But when he does some things that upsets his mother and one final act to set her off, he finds himself spending his time with Miss Volker, the old woman nearby, and the rest grounded in his house. Miss Volker has been it Norvelt her whole life and knows everyone there so she's in charge off the obituaries for the local paper. But whats starts as a normal summer job (against Jack's will) , turns into a mystery as the old ladies of Norvelt start dropping dead and can only take Miss Volker and Jack to get to the bottom of. It is a very fun book that will be making you beg for the second, just like it did to me, but luckily it will be coming out sooooon!!!!!!!
  Publisher's Weekly
     

Starred review from July 25, 2011
A bit of autobiography works its way into all of Gantos's work, but he one-ups himself in this wildly entertaining meld of truth and fiction by naming the main character... Jackie Gantos. Like the author, Jackie lives for a time in Norvelt, a real Pennsylvania town created during the Great Depression and based on the socialist idea of community farming. Presumably (hopefully?) the truth mostly ends there, because Jackie's summer of 1962 begins badly: plagued by frequent and explosive nosebleeds, Jackie is assigned to take dictation for the arthritic obituary writer, Miss Volker, and kept alarmingly busy by elderly residents dying in rapid succession. Then the Hells Angels roll in. Gore is a Gantos hallmark but the squeamish are forewarned that Jackie spends much of the book with blood pouring down his face and has a run-in with home cauterization. Gradually, Jackie learns to face death and his fears straight on while absorbing Miss Volker's theories about the importance of knowing history. "The reason you remind yourself of the stupid stuff you've done in the past is so you don't do it again." Memorable in every way. Ages 10–14.

  Kirkus
     

Starred review from April 15, 2011

An exhilarating summer marked by death, gore and fire sparks deep thoughts in a small-town lad not uncoincidentally named "Jack Gantos."

The gore is all Jack's, which to his continuing embarrassment "would spray out of my nose holes like dragon flames" whenever anything exciting or upsetting happens. And that would be on every other page, seemingly, as even though Jack's feuding parents unite to ground him for the summer after several mishaps, he does get out. He mixes with the undertaker's daughter, a band of Hell's Angels out to exact fiery revenge for a member flattened in town by a truck and, especially, with arthritic neighbor Miss Volker, for whom he furnishes the "hired hands" that transcribe what becomes a series of impassioned obituaries for the local paper as elderly town residents suddenly begin passing on in rapid succession. Eventually the unusual body count draws the—justified, as it turns out—attention of the police. Ultimately, the obits and the many Landmark Books that Jack reads (this is 1962) in his hours of confinement all combine in his head to broaden his perspective about both history in general and the slow decline his own town is experiencing. Nearly all of Gantos' work is loosely autobiographical—here a closing album of family and town photographs adds unusual, if wobbly, verisimilitude.

Characteristically provocative gothic comedy, with sublime undertones. (Autobiographical fiction. 11-13)

(COPYRIGHT (2011) KIRKUS REVIEWS/NIELSEN BUSINESS MEDIA, INC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

  School Library Journal
     

September 1, 2011

Gr 5-8-In 1962, Jack accidentally discharges his father's war relic, a Japanese rifle, and is grounded for the summer. When a neighbor's arthritic hands get the best of her, his mother lifts the restriction and volunteers the 12-year-old to be the woman's scribe, writing obituaries for the local newspaper. Business is brisk for Miss Volker, who doubles as town coroner, and Norvelt's elderly females seem to be dropping like flies. Prone to nosebleeds at the least bit of excitement (until Miss Volker cauterizes his nose with old veterinarian equipment), Jack is a hapless and endearing narrator. It is a madcap romp, with the boy at the wheel of Miss Volker's car as they try to figure out if a Hell's Angel motorcyclist has put a curse on the town, or who might have laced Mertie-Jo's Girl Scout cookies with rat poison. The gutsy Miss Volker and her relentless but rebuffed suitor, Mr. Spizz, are comedic characters central to the zany, episodic plot, which contains unsubtle descriptions of mortuary science. Each quirky obituary is infused with a bit of Norvelt's history, providing insightful postwar facts focusing on Eleanor Roosevelt's role in founding the town on principles of sustainable farming and land ownership for the poor. Jack's absorption with history of any kind makes for refreshing asides about John F. Kennedy's rescue of PT-109 during World War II, King Richard II, Francisco Pizarro's conquest of Peru, and more. A fast-paced and witty read.-Vicki Reutter, Cazenovia High School, NY

Copyright 2011 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Creator Marketing:
  Jack Gantos     
      Jack Gantos has written books for people of all ages, from picture books and middle-grade fiction to novels for young adults and adults. His works include Hole in My Life, a memoir that won the Michael L. Printz and Robert F. Sibert Honors, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, and Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor book. Jack was born in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, and when he was seven, his family moved to Barbados. He attended British schools, where there was much emphasis on reading and writing, and teachers made learning a lot of fun. When the family moved to south Florida, he found his new classmates uninterested in their studies, and his teachers spent most of their time disciplining students. Jack retreated to an abandoned bookmobile (three flat tires and empty of books) parked out behind the sandy ball field, and read for most of the day. The seeds for Jack's writing career were planted in sixth grade, when he read his sister's diary and decided he could write better than she could. He begged his mother for a diary and began to collect anecdotes he overheard at school, mostly from standing outside the teachers' lounge and listening to their lunchtime conversations. Later, he incorporated many of these anecdotes into stories. While in college, he and an illustrator friend, Nicole Rubel, began working on picture books. After a series of well-deserved rejections, they published their first book, Rotten Ralph, in 1976. It was a success and the beginning of Jack's career as a professional writer. Jack continued to write children's books and began to teach courses in children's book writing and children's literature. He developed the master's degree program in children's book writing at Emerson College and the Vermont College M.F.A. program for children's book writers. He now devotes his time to writing books and educational speaking. He lives with his family in Boston, Massachusetts.
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