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Winner of the John Newbery Metal for the best children's book of 2011.
Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a fiesty old neighbor with a most unusual chore - typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launced on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels... and possibly murder.
Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air.
Original, entertaining and funny. Norvelt is an amusing story that could be recommended to anyone at any age.
5 of 6 people found this review helpful
I love love LOVE this demented little nugget of a book. No children's writer is more twisted or morbid than Jack Gantos, which is what makes him the BEST. In this Newbery-winning novel, twelve-year-old Jack gets grounded and spends the summer of 1962 helping a feisty old witch write obituaries for all the little old ladies in Norvelt, Pennsylvania, who may or may not be getting slowly poisoned to death. Meanwhile, Hells Angels move in down the road and start burning local houses to the ground, and the next door neighbors start up a funeral parlor. This is a great novel about what it's like to be young, bored, and grounded, and in the funniest scene OF ALL TIME since Barbara Park wrote Skinnybones, Jack describes his method for noiselessly scaring deer away during his dad's hunting trip. (Spoiler: it's farts.) Gantos' deadpan humor translates best when he reads it out loud; I can't recommend the audio highly enough!
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Where does Dead End in Norvelt rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
The chraacters are charming. Imaginie the protagonist beiing grounded for the whole summer except when he gos to help an elderly lady who writes obits. She is a fabulous writer, we shoul all have such a gifted writer. She iincludes significent history among her writings, historical facts you will enjoy remembering and surprised you'd forgotten. Norvlt is a real place and you ned to know what it means.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Jack and Miss Volker--together they make the story roll.
What about Jack Gantos’s performance did you like?
He has a gift for humor and plays on words. You won't put this book down or begin to think about how small towns begin to meet their demise.
If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?
No film for this book
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
Bought this book right after learning it was the Newberry winner, I usually love the books they select. The plot had so much potential and I wanted to like it. Actually had to force myself to finish it to see if the end was so great it made up for the beginning. Found it a jerky ride of manic tangents and multiple themes barely held together in a story so random and contrived that I couldn't force myself to suspend disbelief.
I was sick of nosebleeds, old ladies being murdered and frequent, irritating "faux" swearing (like cheeses crust) by multiple persons, which as read by reader sounded like normal swearing. The main character is a young teen who speaks, thinks and evaluates like an old man looking back rather than a teen experiencing the events. All the characters are quirky and felt manufactured. The setting in the 50's didn't feel real either, a bomb shelter being dug in the back yard does not an era make.
Someone obviously likes it, but many books in the past few years just earning "honors" and not the award are much better.
7 of 10 people found this review helpful
I enjoyed the history and the humor in this book. I think young boys would especially enjoy it.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
This book was great! Best book! I could already imagine the author's childhood life! Thank you!
Jack Gantos is a wonderful storyteller. I highly recommend this book to all historical fiction lovers. Can't wait to read the next in the Norvelt series.
This story is way awesome! It is so hilarious and funny. Everyone please read it!!!!!
1 of 2 people found this review helpful
What did you like best about this story?
I really like the way Mr. Gantos weaves history in with the story. It makes the story very rich. Especially since this is a book for kids--I love that he's finding a way to talk to children in a way they understand and say "hey! history MATTERS!!"
What didn’t you like about Jack Gantos’s performance?
Some people are cut out to be audio readers; others are not. Mr. Gantos is a great writer but he is definitely not cut out for being the reader. I wish he had hired someone else to read it for him. (Example JK rowling hired Jim Dale. I think if she read Harry Potter to us, it would have been bad.) Anyway, his performance killed it for me. I kept thinking how he was running over his own words. Frustrating.
If you could sum up Dead End in Norvelt in three words, what would they be?
funny, exciting, informing
What other book might you compare Dead End in Norvelt to and why?
The Miracle of Miss Willie
Which scene was your favorite?
When Jack first goes to Mrs. Norvelts house and it look like she is melting her hands in a big pot. He ends up past out on the floor. My six year old was so enchanted and worried about what the crazy old lady was doing.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
The ending when he figures out the purpose of History.
Any additional comments?
I loved how he entwined the history and made it relevant. My children and I could not get enough. We have started playing our favorite chapters over again and my 6 year old is acting out his favorite parts.
1 of 3 people found this review helpful