Every winter I eagerly await the ALA Youth Media Awards. Recently it occurred to me that I'd never read Dead End in Norvelt, last year's Newbery winner. So I set aside a few days for that -- and then read it in one day.
Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, September 2011)
Source: advance reading copy from publisher (yes, I still have old arcs!)
Synopsis (from Indiebound): 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 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 launched 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.
Why I like it: This is hilarious, weird, and wise. It's historical fiction, but also a fast-paced murder mystery. And since it takes place in 1962, when I was a child, I got a kick out of reading about bomb shelters, drive-in movies, and typewriters (anyone remember typewriters?). But it's the characters who draw you in and offer immense entertainment here, especially old Miss Volker, with her obituaries, and old Mr. Spizz with his tricycle. The most fun, of course, is watching Jack get into predicaments and wondering how he'll get out of them. Even reluctant readers would enjoy this.
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Have you read Dead End in Norvelt? And what do you hope wins this year's Newbery award?