Reviewed by Kim Harris Thacker: writer, mommy, and Bookshop Talk host
Oh my giggles, this book was funny and totally deserving of the Newbery Medal, which it won back in January of this year. Honestly, I laughed out loud several times. I also gagged, because there were bloody noses. Lots of them. Lots and lots. Rather, it's one nose that's bleeding, but it's often bleeding. Maybe I should say "nose bleeds." That clarifies things a bit, but it also sounds a little pretentious, and DEAD END IN NORVELT is anything but pretentious! It's gory and gross and absolutely ridiculous. It's also rather educational. I mean, amid the chortles and gags, I also learned quite a lot of random history.
But I can't let you think that this book is just funny and slightly educational. It's so well written. Gantos is dead-on with the main character's voice. He's completely believable. I also loved all the other characters, all of whom were really wacko and really loveable.
Read this book for the giggles, the history, and because it truly is, as humor columnist and author Dave Barry said, "A brilliant book."
Do you know what else is fantastic? Jack Gantos has helps for teachers and librarians available on his website, too. Click here for the teacher's guide for DEAD END IN NORVELT.
*Note: If you're a fan of Richard Peck's Newbery Medal-winning and honor-winning novels, A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO and A YEAR DOWN YONDER, you definitely need to give DEAD END IN NORVELT a try!
MARKET: MG Historical Fiction
LANGUAGE: mild (frequent use of a "fake" swear word)
VIOLENCE: extremely mild (some discussion of past wars; lots of bloody noses, but they're never caused by violence)
SENSUALITY: mild (mention of a sweet crush--that's it)MATURE THEMES: death, less-than-ideal finances, post-war trauma, difficulties within families