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Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Dead End in Norvelt (2011)

by Jack Gantos

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Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
Summary: This novel tells a story of a young man who has the whole summer vacation to look forward to. There are so many plans on this young man’s agenda that have nothing on the menu but fun. Unfortunately, his plans are ruined because his parents have “grounded him for life”. His mother then sets him up on a new summer path where he helps his neighbors with something completely different than yard work. They look through old obituaries by reviewing the past lives and then typing them up. Jack seems to go through some shocks as he views all the different stories, and uncovers new ones that lead up to serious mysteries to why these people had obituaries written about them. Towards the end of the story, you began to learn that the book’s story is written about the author himself.

Personal Reaction: The book kept me wanting read the book outside of the class I was reading to, but I had to hold myself back. It was a great combination on strange, interesting, mysterious, and somewhat crazy. The book seemed to have a strange twist on real life and fantasy, which made for a great read!
Classroom Extension Ideas:
1. I used the book in a classroom, where I read aloud to the students, and then had them reflect back on each chapter and inform me of what was going on.
2. Great brain break! For reviewing literature, I believe that this story would be great for a classroom to break down and study different aspect of the book and author for a literature lesson.
  AlanaLedford | Apr 18, 2016 |
Another disappointing Newbery winner. The story (what little story there is) plods along at a mind-numbing pace. I just can't see kids sticking with this, and why should they? It isn't a great book. In a year where I thought "A Monster Calls" and "Okay for Now" would be duking it out for the top prize, I was saddened to see that this is the book the Newbery committee picked. Ah well, I suppose there's always next year. ( )
  EmilyRokicki | Feb 26, 2016 |
Dead End in Norvelt is an autobiographical/fiction novel by the Jack Gantos, a well-known children and YA author. It features a boy named Jack Gantos and is based partly on the author's childhood in Norvelt, Pennsylvania. It received Newberry award in 2012. The novel centers on a two month period (in the early 1960s) when Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is "grounded for life" by his parents, after he accidently shots his father’s Japanese rifle and not so accidently mows down his mother’s corn field. But plenty of excitement comes Jack's way once his mom loans him out to help a neighbor, Miss Volker, with an unusual chore—typewriting obituaries (for the "original Norvelters") filled with stories about the people who founded his town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack begins his summer adventure—which includes molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, Hells Angels and possibly murder. I loved this book and decided I want a friend like Miss Volker. I loved the idea of taking an obituary and adding a historical note that heightened the life of the deceased—what a wonderful idea. Jack learns over the summer the importance of being part of a community, the lessons of history and what fun a car and an old lady can be. This book is laugh out loud funny at times—and a great book for the YA reader or a wonderful book to share as a family. 4 ½ out of 5 stars. ( )
  marsap | Feb 10, 2016 |
Narrated by the author. This put me in mind of "A Long Way to Chicago." Both books have opinionated elder ladies who take no prisoners. I really enjoyed listening to Jack Gantos read his work; very funny interpretation and even though he doesn't do any distinctive voices for the characters, he still manages to give each a clear personality. ( )
  Salsabrarian | Feb 2, 2016 |
“School was finally out and I was standing on a picnic table in our backyard getting ready for a great summer when my mother walked up to me and ruined it.” -- Jack Gantos

It is the summer of 1962 and Jack’s mom informs him that he has been enlisted to help out their old neighbor, Miss Volker, to write obituaries for the local paper. She will dictate the stories about the residents who have passed on and Jack will prepare them for print.

But that was the least of his problems. “Oh sweet cheeze-us!” Jack hadn’t known that the rifle was loaded when he aimed and fired at the enemy on the drive-in movie screen, which led to his being grounded for the summer.

And then there was the small problem of his “sensitive” nose from which blood would come spewing out of whenever Jack got a little excited

Oh, and did I mention that someone might be killing off all the original little old ladies of Norvelt?

You’ll get to know the locals as you join Jack on his adventures, some of which include:
-trying to silently pass gas to save the life of a deer
-checking on the elderly to see if it is too soon to write an obituary…while dressed as the Grimm Reaper
-sneaking out of the house to go on Girl Scout fire patrol with his best friend, Bunny

This pleasant story is part adventure, part historical fiction, part murder mystery and full of quirky characters.
( )
  MrsBarbarino | Jan 24, 2016 |
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School was finally out and I was standing on a picnic table in our backyard getting ready for a great summer vacation when my mother walked up to me and ruined it.
But church had a different kind of math.  You could never be sure what anything added up to, which meant that what was in your imagination while sitting in a pew was just as important as what the preacher was saying--maybe even more important. It's like when you read a book and you know that the words are important, but the images blossoming in your imagination are even more important because it's your mind that allows the words to come to life.
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In the historic town of Norvelt, Pennsylvania, twelve-year-old Jack Gantos spends the summer of 1962 grounded for various offenses until he is assigned to help an elderly neighbor with a most unusual chore involving the newly dead, molten wax, twisted promises, Girl Scout cookies, underage driving, lessons from history, typewriting, and countless bloody noses.… (more)

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