Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, 2011.
Dead End in Norvelt is a big fat award winner, of both the 2012 Newbery Medal and the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. If that isn't recommendation enough for you, please allow me to add mine. This odd, amusing story will gross you out, make you laugh and get you to love its young narrator.
Set in Pennsylvania in 1962, Dead End in Norvelt follows a 12 year old boy, also named Jack Gantos, through a summer that he spends mostly grounded, but seldom bored. His community conscious mom has promised his help to a little old neighbor, Miss Volker, who wants him at her house at 6:00 am. Fortunately for the history-loving Jack, his job is to help her write up obituaries about the original inhabitants of their hometown, Norvelt, and Miss Volker knows how to make history lively.
After a mishap with his dad's Japanese war souvenir and an unfortunate corn mowing incident, his work with Miss Volker becomes his only hope for excitement. He soon finds himself dressing up like the Grim Reaper to investigate a possible death, tangling with a pack of revenge seeking Hell's Angels and undergoing an operation Miss Volker performs with veterinary tools meant to fix his perpetually bloody nose.
Through his adventures, he describes town characters such as Mr. Spizz, an officious, tricycle riding would-be suitor of Miss Volker's, Bunny Huffer, his tough, baseball loving friend, and his scheming father, who plans to build a runway for his army surplus plane, while assuring his wife that he is putting in a bomb shelter instead.
All the while, the town elders seem to be dropping dead at an accelerated pace.
I can't wait to read the sequel, From Norvelt to Nowhere!