Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dead End In Norvelt

Gantos, Jack. DEAD END IN NORVELT. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ISBN 978-0374379933 [Suggested Grade Levels 5-10]

Jack Gantos’s irrepressible and off-kilter sense of humor was never more in evidence than in this autobiographical story of his summer in small town Norvelt, Pennsylvania in 1962. Grounded and bored, he suffers from chronic nosebleeds that are a source of both delicious gore and total hilarity. To keep him out of trouble his mother loans him to an elderly neighbor lady who writes the obituaries for the local newspaper. This leads to an odd and unlikely friendship, learning a lot about people in this utopian town, and a bona fide mystery to be solved. The eccentric characters abound and the dry, sly humor makes it a terrific book to read aloud—even to older students. Dead End in Norvelt won the 2012 Newbery Medal and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction.

The author himself narrates the audiobook adaptation of this book and it is hilarious! Play excerpts and discuss how his reading conveys his autobiography. Locate the actual town of Norvelt on a map and research the philosophy behind this “created” town of the New Deal. Look for more activities on the Educator’s Guide at

Other humorous novels by Jack Gantos:
Look for the JOEY PIGZA books and the JACK HENRY adventures all by Gantos

Other novels about growing up in the 1960’s:
Schmidt, Gary. THE WEDNESAY WARS. ISBN 978-0545105620
Schmidt, Gary. OKAY FOR NOW. ISBN 978-0547152608
Wiles, Deborah. COUNTDOWN. ISBN 978-0545106054

By Sylvia M. Vardell

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