As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

March 23, 2012

DEAD END IN NORVELT by Jack Gantos, 2011

Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is the story of an incredible two months for a boy named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation adventure are suddenly ruined when he is grounded by his feuding parents for what seems like forever. But escape comes where Jack least expects it, once he begins helping an elderly neighbor with a most unusual chore—a chore involving the newly dead, molten wax, twisted promises, Girl Scout cookies, underage driving, lessons from history, obituaries, Hells Angels, and countless bloody noses. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers crack up at the most shocking things in a depiction of growing up in an off-kilter world where the characters are as unpredictable and over-the-top as they come. (Jack Gantos's website)

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

Book formats:


Anonymous said...

I love "A Long Way from Chicago"! I will have to try this one!

Joelle said...

Thanks. I just put it on hold.