Jack Gantos has long been one of my favorite authors, from Rotten Ralph picture books to Joey Pigza novels (they truly make me laugh out loud) to his amazing memoir Hole in my Life. When Dead End in Norvelt won the prized Newbery Medal last winter, I was so happy for him. Gantos’ writing is superbly entertaining and, while you are laughing to tears, you always feel his very real and serious connection to real life.
Dead End in Norvelt is a strange combination of fiction and autobiography. The main character is 12-year-old Jackie Gantos who lives in the dusty little town where Gantos grew up. However, Gantos says much of the book is embellished and “wildly fictional.” See the 4-minute youtube interview with Jack Gantos for some clarification on what’s true and what is made up.
The fictional Jackie’s summer of 1962 seems to be spent grounded, for the most part, and his only option for getting out of his house is to help the fascinating elderly neighbor, Miss Volker. How Jackie manages to meet up with a number of corpses, have surgery performed on him on a kitchen table, bomb the town with paint and nearly get dismembered by a motorcycle gang, while being sentenced to his room by his stern but loving mother – well, it’s worth reading about! See the Dead End in Norvelt book trailer video made by Johnson County Public Library for a visual synopsis.
Need more award-winning literature? Go to our Newbery Medal list with links to our library catalog.
Reviewed by Jennifer