Dead End in Norvelt
Written by Jack Gantos
There’s a reason the Gantos boy won the Newbery Medal. He also won the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Ficiton. The first book in the Norvelt series based on the author’s childhood is engaging and laugh out loud funny, though darkly funny in places. Miss Volker, Jack’s neighbor, is the elderly medical examiner and obituary writer for the town of Norvelt, established and named for EleaNOR RooseVELT. Miss Volker’s arthritis has gotten so bad, she must soak her hands in melted paraffin before they are of any use at all, so she enlists Jack’s help at every opportunity. Meanwhile Jack is in an extended grounding for accidentally shooting off his father’s Japanese rifle and for mowing down his mother’s corn at his father’s urging. His excitement grows as the old ladies of Norvelt start dropping like flies. After several deaths, the town newspaper publisher and the police begin to get suspicious. Is Miss Volker the culprit or is it the lone surviving original male Norvelter, adult tricycle rider Mr. Spizz? All the while, Jack is fighting constant nose bleeds, and Miss Volker is determined to help him with that.
And Jack’s father is building a runway for an airplane of questionable safety while Jack digs a bomb shelter by hand.
Fourth graders and up will enjoy the dry humor. The story will hold their attention to strengthen literacy and comprehension. Teachers, librarians, and parents will enjoy the fact that with each obituary comes a history lesson. A quick check of facts may be in order, though.
- Title: Dead End in Norvelt
- Author: Jack Gantor
- Publisher: Square Fish/Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2011
- Reviewer: Sue Poduska
- Format: Paperback, 384 pages
- Genre: Middle grade historical fiction, humor
- ISBN: 978-1-250-01023-0