Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dead End in Norvelt

by Jack Gantos
New York : Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011.

Young Jack Gantos is growing up in the town of Norvelt, Pennsylvania, a town that was founded by Eleanor Roosevelt as a place where poor people could live with dignity and where folks could trade their services instead of depend on cash. Now, in the decade after World War 2, the Norvelt "originals" are older and dying, and poor Jack is grounded because he let off his father's gun and caused a scare. Miss Volker, his older neighbor with arthritic hands, is Jack's "get out of jail free" card when she calls and needs his help writing obituaries.

This year's Newbery Award winner is the first book I've read by Jack Gantos, but now I want to go back and read his other books. His narrative follows a typical summer in that it's more episodic a traditional plot line, though Norvelt has its share of quirky, original characters and more than a few of the events are unbelievable. Jack's parents are great, and their interactions ring true, how they disagree fundamentally about some things, but also love each other as much as they drive each other nuts. I was regularly chuckling or even laughing out loud at some of the events (some of the obits in particular stand out memorably). This story was a lot of fun to read, and I'll certainly be recommending it to kids at the library.

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