Dead End in Norvelt may be acquired taste

June 3, 2012 at 1:47 pm Leave a comment

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos; published by Farrar Straus Giroux, New York; 2011.

Summer vacation for Jack Gantos (the protagonist kid, not the author) is not going as planned.  Caught in the middle of his feuding parents, he has been grounded for life.  Chores and reading, that’s it.  Digging a bomb shelter for his dad by day and creating an igloo of books that he’s finished reading by night comprise his entertainment.  That is, until his mom asks him to help his feisty old neighbor write obituaries for the quickly dying founders of Eleanor Roosevelt’s post-war promised land, Norvelt.  Between humorous observations, history lessons, and stress-induced bloody noses, this summer isn’t going to turn out so bad after all.

I will profess right now that I am a Jack Gantos fan.  His Joey Pigza books not only appealed to the reluctant readers at the elementary school where I got my library start, those books also gave parents a glimpse at life for their ADHD children.  I get his humor; apparently, not everyone is in on the jokes.  I like that history is mainstreamed into a story line (I wish we all did that; you know, learn a little something about our neighbors, neighborhood, and world community every day).  I also like that the plot, as it were, is the progression not only of summer days but of character development.  Apparently, not every reader got this (one coworker wondered “what happened” in the story).  My discussions with readers since finishing has been a dichotomy: lovers and haters; but they’ve all been adults.  No child has read this, at least in my little circle of readers.

Will this book appeal to kids?  Hmm, maybe not.  I am glad that it will be required reading for students working their way through the Newbery winners.  I can think of a few former elementary students that would’ve eaten this book up and asked for a sequel.  Maybe there are more kids out there who like a little history with their humor.

I think this book would be well-paired with Deborah Wiles’ Countdown (read my review here).  I’d put it on a list of books for boys as well–the physical humor is sure to strike a chord.

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Entry filed under: Newbery Award or Honor Book. Tags: , , , , , , , .

Relax and enjoy The View from Saturday Wonder should be required reading for children AND adults

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Disclaimers: Per the FTC regulations, please note that sometimes books are received for review for free by publishers or authors. All books (ARCs, galleys, library or purchased) will be reviewed fairly; no special consideration is given to anything reviewed on this blog. In addition, I make every attempt to avoid spoilers. Sometimes they happen inadvertently or because they are important to defend a review; not all spoilers have been removed or fixed. This disclaimer is a general statement included as a warning to readers.

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