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Dead End in Norvelt

Dead End in Norvelt

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Dead End in Norvelt

Bewertungen:
4/5 (69 Bewertungen)
Länge:
352 Seiten
5 Stunden
Freigegeben:
Sep 13, 2011
ISBN:
9781429962506
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Dead End in Norvelt is the winner of the 2012 Newbery Medal for the year's best contribution to children's literature and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction!

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.

Freigegeben:
Sep 13, 2011
ISBN:
9781429962506
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Jack Gantos is the celebrated author of Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor Book. He is also the author of the popular picture books about Rotten Ralph, and Jack's Black Book, the latest in his acclaimed series of semi-autobiographical story collections featuring his alter ego, Jack Henry. Mr. Gantos lives with his wife and daughter in Boston, Massachusetts.


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Dead End in Norvelt - Jack Gantos

Mabel

1

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. I was holding a pair of camouflage Japanese WWII binoculars to my eyes and focusing across her newly planted vegetable garden, and her cornfield, and over ancient Miss Volker’s roof, and then up the Norvelt road, and past the brick bell tower on my school, and beyond the Community Center, and the tall silver whistle on top of the volunteer fire department to the most distant dark blue hill, which is where the screen for the Viking drive-in movie theater had recently been erected.

Down by my feet I had laid out all the Japanese army souvenirs Dad had shipped home from the war. He had been in the navy, and after a Pacific island invasion in the Solomons he and some other sailor buddies had blindly crawled around at night and found a bunker of dead Japanese soldiers half buried in the sand. They stripped everything military off of them and dragged the loot back to their camp. Dad had an officer’s sword with what he said was real dried blood along the razor-sharp edge of the long blade. He had a Japanese flag, a sniper’s rifle with a full ammo clip, a dented canteen, a pair of dirty white gloves with a scorched hole shot right through the bloody palm of the left hand, and a color-tinted photo of an elegant Japanese woman in a kimono. Of course he also had the powerful binoculars I was using.

I knew Mom had come to ruin my fun, so I thought I would distract her and maybe she’d forget what was on her mind.

Hey, Mom, I said matter-of-factly with the binoculars still pressed against my face, how come blood on a sword dries red, and blood on cloth dries brown? How come?

Honey, Mom replied, sticking with what was on her mind, does your dad know you have all this dangerous war stuff out?

He always lets me play with it as long as I’m careful, I said, which wasn’t true. In fact, he never let me play with it, because as he put it, This swag will be worth a bundle of money someday, so keep your grubby hands off it.

Well, don’t hurt yourself, Mom warned. "And if there is blood on some of that stuff, don’t touch it. You might catch something, like Japanese polio."

"Don’t you mean Japanese beetles?" I asked. She had an invasion of those in her garden that were winning the plant war.

She didn’t answer my question. Instead, she switched back to why she came to speak to me in the first place. I just got a call from Miss Volker. She needs a few minutes of your time in the morning, so I told her I’d send you down.

I gazed at my mom through the binoculars but she was too close to bring into focus. Her face was just a hazy pink cupcake with strawberry icing.

And, she continued, "Miss Volker said she would give you a little something for your help, but I don’t want you to take any money. You can take a slice of pie but no money. We never help neighbors for cash."

Pie? That’s all I get? I asked. Pie? But what if it makes her feel good to give me money?

"It won’t make me feel good if she gives you money, she stressed. And it shouldn’t make you feel good either. Helping others is a far greater reward than doing it for money."

Okay, I said, giving in to her before she pushed me in. What time?

Mom looked away from me for a moment and stared over at War Chief, my uncle Will’s Indian pony, who was grinding his chunky yellow teeth. He was working up a sweat from scratching his itchy side back and forth against the rough bark on a prickly oak. About a month ago my uncle visited us when he got a pass from the army. He used to work for the county road department and for kicks he had painted big orange and white circles with reflective paint all over War Chief’s hair. He said it made War Chief look like he was getting ready to battle General Custer. But War Chief was only battling the paint which wouldn’t wash off, and it had been driving him crazy. Mom said the army had turned her younger brother Will from being a nice kid to being a confused jerk.

Earlier, the pony had been rubbing himself against the barbed wire around the turkey coop, but the long-necked turkeys got all riled up and pecked his legs. It had been so long since a farrier had trimmed War Chief’s hooves that he hobbled painfully around the yard like a crippled ballerina. It was sad. If my uncle gave me the pony I’d take really good care of him, but he wouldn’t give him up.

Miss Volker will need you there at six in the morning, Mom said casually, but she said you were welcome to come earlier if you wanted.

Six! I cried. I don’t even have to get up that early for school, and now that I’m on my summer vacation I want to sleep in. Why does she need me so early?

She said she has an important project with a deadline and she’ll need you as early as she can get you.

I lifted my binoculars back toward the movie. The Japanese were snaking through the low palmettos toward the last few marines on Wake Island. One of the young marines was holding a prayer book and looking toward heaven, which was a sure Hollywood sign he was about to die with a slug to a vital organ. Then the scene cut to a young Japanese soldier aiming his sniper rifle, which looked just like mine. Then the film cut back to the young marine, and just as he crossed himself with the Father, Son, and Holy— BANG! He clutched his heart and slumped over.

Yikes! I called out. They plugged him!

Is that a war movie? Mom asked sharply, pointing toward the screen and squinting as if she were looking directly into the flickering projector.

Not entirely, I replied. "It’s more of a love war movie." I lied. It was totally a war movie except for when the soon-to-be-dead marines talked about their girlfriends, but I threw in the word love because I thought she wouldn’t say what she said next.

You know I don’t like you watching war movies, she scolded me with her hands on her hips. "All that violence is bad for you—plus it gets you worked up."

"I know, Mom, I replied with as much huffiness in my voice as I thought I could get away with. I know."

"Do I need to remind you of your little problem?" she asked.

How could I forget? I was a nosebleeder. The moment something startled me or whenever I got overexcited or spooked about any little thing blood would spray out of my nose holes like dragon flames.

"I know, I said to her, and instinctively swiped a finger under my nose to check for blood. You remind me of my little problem all day long."

"You know the doctor thinks it’s the sign of a bigger problem, she said seriously. If you have iron-poor blood you may not be getting enough oxygen to your brain."

Can you just leave, please?

Don’t be disrespectful, she said, reminding me of my manners, but I was already obsessing about my bleeding-nose problem. When Dad’s old Chevy truck backfired I showered blood across the sidewalk. When I fell off the pony and landed on my butt my nose spewed blood down over my chest. At night, if I had a disturbing dream then my nose leaked through the pillow. I swear, with the blood I was losing I needed a transfusion about every other day. Something had to be wrong with me, but one really good advantage about being dirt-poor is that you can’t afford to go to the doctor and get bad news.

Jack! my mom called, and reached forward to poke my kneecap. Jack! Are you listening? Come into the house soon. You’ll have to get to bed early now that you have morning plans.

Okay, I said, and felt my fun evening leap off a cliff as she walked back toward the kitchen door. I knew she was still soaking the dishes in the sink so I had a little more time. Once she was out of sight I turned back to what I had been planning all along. I lifted the binoculars and focused in on the movie screen. The Japanese hadn’t quite finished off all the marines and I figured I’d be a marine too and help defend them. I knew we wouldn’t be fighting the Japanese anymore because they were now our friends, but it was good to use movie enemies for target practice because Dad said I had to get ready to fight off the Russian Commies who had already sneaked into the country and were planning to launch a surprise attack. I put down the binoculars and removed the ammo clip on the sniper rifle then aimed it toward the screen where I could just make out the small images. There was no scope on the rifle so I had to use the regular sight—the kind where you lined up a little metal ball on the far end of the barrel with the V-notch above the trigger where you pressed your cheek and eye to the cool wooden stock. The rifle weighed a ton. I hoisted it up and tried to aim at the movie screen, but the barrel shook back and forth so wildly I couldn’t get the ball to line up inside the V. I lowered the rifle and took a deep breath. I knew I didn’t have all night to play because of Mom, so I gave it another try as the Japanese made their final Banzai! assault.

I lifted the rifle again and swung the tip of the barrel straight up into the air. I figured I could gradually lower the barrel at the screen, aim, and pick off one of the Japanese troops. With all my strength I slowly lowered the barrel and held it steady enough to finally get the ball centered inside the V, and when I saw a tiny Japanese soldier leap out of a bush I quickly pulled the trigger and let him have it.

BLAM! The rifle fired off and violently kicked out of my grip. It flipped into the air before clattering down across the picnic table and sliding onto the ground. Oh sweet cheeze-us! I wailed, and dropped butt-first onto the table. Ohhh! Cheeze-us-crust! I didn’t know the rifle was loaded. I hadn’t put a shell in the chamber. My ears were ringing like air raid warnings. I tried to stand but was too dizzy and flopped over. This is bad. This is bad, I whispered over and over as I desperately gripped the tabletop.

Jaaaack! I heard my mother shriek and then the screen door slammed behind her.

If I’m not already dead I soon will be, I said to myself.

She sprinted across the grass and mashed through a bed of peonies and lunged toward me like a crazed animal. Before I could drop down and hide under the picnic table she pounced on me. Oh … my … God! she panted, and grabbed at my body as I tried to wiggle away. Oh dear Lord! There’s blood! You’ve been shot! Where? Then she gasped and pointed directly at my face. Her eyes bugged out and her scream was so high-pitched it was silent.

I tasted blood. Oh cheeze! I shouted. I’ve been shot in the mouth!

With the dish towel still clutched in her hand she pressed it against my forehead.

Am I dying? I blubbered. Is there a hole in my head? Am I breathing?

I felt her roughly wiping my face while trying to get a clear look at my wound. Oh, good grief, she suddenly groaned, and flung her bloodied arms down to her side.

What? I asked desperately. Am I too hurt to be fixed?

"It’s just your nose problem! she said, exasperated. Your dang bloody nose! Then she pressed the towel to my face again. Hold it there tightly, she instructed, I’ll go get another one."

She stomped back toward the house, and I sat there for a few torturous minutes with one hand pressing the towel against my nose and breathed deeply through my mouth. Even through the blood I could smell the flinty gunpowder from the bullet. Dad is going to kill me, I thought. He’ll court-martial me and sentence me to death by firing squad. Before I could fully imagine the tragic end of my life I heard an ambulance wailing up the Norvelt road. It took a turn directly into Miss Volker’s driveway and stopped. The driver jumped out and sprinted toward her house and jerked open the porch door.

That’s not good, I thought and turned cold all over. If I shot Miss Volker through the head Mom will never believe it was an accident. She’ll think I was just trying to get out of going to her house in the morning.

I lowered myself down onto the picnic bench and then onto the grass which was slippery from my blood. I trotted across the yard to our screen door. I was still bleeding so I stood outside and dripped on the doormat. Please, please, please, don’t let me have shot her, I thought over and over. I knew I had to say something to Mom, so I gathered up a little courage and as casually as possible said, Um, there happens to be an ambulance at Miss Volker’s house.

But Mom was a step ahead of me. Don’t worry, she said right back. I just now called down there. She’s fine. You didn’t shoot her if that is what you are thinking.

I was, I admitted. I thought I shot her dead!

It wasn’t that, she said, now frowning at me from the other side of the door. The shock from hearing the rifle go off caused her to drop her hearing aid down the toilet—I guess she had it turned up too high.

So why’d she call an ambulance? Did she get her arm stuck going after it?

No. She called the plumber, but he’s also the ambulance driver so he made an emergency call. Really, she said with some admiration, it’s good that people around this town know how to help out in different ways.

Hey, Mom, I said quietly before going to wash my face at the outside work sink, please don’t tell Dad about the gun accident. He was out of town but you never knew when he’d finish a construction job and suddenly show up.

I’ll consider it, she said without much promise. But until he returns you are grounded—and if you do something this stupid again you’ll barely live to regret it. Understand?

I understood. I really didn’t want Dad knowing what had happened because he would blow a fuse. On top of him not wanting me to touch his stuff he was always trying to teach me about gun safety, and I figured after this gun episode he might give up on me and I didn’t want him to.

Here, she said, and handed me a wad of tissues so I could roll them into pointy cones to plug up my nose holes. And before bed I want you to take a double dose of your iron drops, she stressed. The doctor doesn’t want you to become anemic.

It’s just a nosebleed, I said glumly.

There may be more to it, she replied. Besides, given that stunt you just pulled, it’s in your best interest to do exactly what I say.

I did exactly what she said and cleaned all my blood off and took my medicine and went to bed, but firing that rifle had me all wound up. How could that bullet have gotten into the chamber? The ammo clip was off. I thought about it as I tossed back and forth, but couldn’t come up with an answer. Plus, it was hard to fall asleep with my nose stuffed with massive wads of bloody tissue while breathing through my dry mouth. I turned on my bedside lamp and picked a book from one of the tall stacks Mom had given me. She did some charity auction work for the old elementary school over in Hecla which was closing, and in return they gave her a bunch of books including their beat-up Landmark history series, which had dozens of titles about famous explorers. I was a little too drifty in school so she thought it was a good idea that I read more books, and she knew I liked history and adventure stories.

I started reading about Francisco Pizarro’s hard-to-believe conquest of the Incas in Peru. In 1532 Pizarro and fewer than two hundred men captured Atahualpa, the Inca chief, who had an army of fifty thousand soldiers. Pizarro’s men fired off an old flintlock blunderbuss and the noise and smoke scared the Inca army and Pizarro jumped on Atahualpa and held a sword to his neck and in that very instant the entire Inca empire was defeated. Amazing!

Pizarro then held Atahualpa hostage for a ransom of gold so the Incas brought Pizarro piles of golden life-size people and animals and plants—all sculpted from solid gold as if the Incas had the Midas touch while they strolled through their fantastic cities and farms and jungles and everything they even gently brushed up against turned into pure gold. But no one will ever again see that life-size golden world because once the conquistadors got their greedy hands on the gold they melted it down. They turned all those beautiful golden sculptures into boring Spanish coins and shipped boatloads of them back to the king and queen of Spain, who loved the gold but wanted even more.

Pizarro then raided all the temples and palaces and melted down the gold he found and sent that back. Still, it wasn’t enough for the king and queen. Pizarro even dug up the dead when it was discovered that they were buried with gold. He had their jewelry melted down and sent back to Spain. But it still wasn’t enough. So Pizarro’s men forced the Inca people to work harder in the gold mines. They melted the gold ore and sent that back to Spain, and when there was no more gold Pizarro broke his promise and strangled the Inca king. He turned the Inca people into slaves and they died by the thousands from harsh work and disease.

Finally, one of Pizarro’s own men sneaked up and stabbed him to death because he thought Pizarro was cheating him out of his share of gold for helping to conquer the Incas. Gold had driven the conquistadors crazy and they ended up killing themselves and all of those poor Incas. It was a really tragic story. I just wished I had been with Atahualpa and his army when the conquistadors fired off that blunderbuss. I could have told Atahualpa that I had fired off a rifle too and that it was scary, but not to panic. Then we could have ordered the Inca army to capture the gold-crazed conquistadors and saved the Inca civilization, and history would have been different. If only …

2

I must have fallen asleep because I was dreaming of Pizarro’s crazed men melting down the golden statues of people into a big pot like when you melt a plastic army man over a burner on the stove when your mother isn’t looking. That’s when my alarm clock went off. It was five in the morning. I knew I had set it for six, but after I fell asleep Mom must have reset it. I was just going to roll over and go back to sleep when she tapped my shoulder and whispered, Jack, are you awake?

I’m dreaming of gold, I moaned. Lots of gold.

Stop dreaming, she ordered, and pinched my toe. And hurry up. Miss Volker has probably made your breakfast already. She’s been up for hours.

I thought I was grounded, I said nasally, and plucked out my bloodied nose plugs.

I’m just loaning you to her for a while, she explained. When you finish with her come straight back home. Understand?

I understood.

When she left I pulled on the same sweaty clothes I had peeled off the night before. I didn’t care that there were bloodstains spattered down the front of my shirt because every shirt I owned was decorated with bloodstains. I glanced at my hair in the mirror. My brown curls stood up on my head like a field planted with question marks. There was no reason to brush it. The question marks would just stand up into exclamation points and then wilt back over into question marks. Besides, I was a boy. It is okay to be a boy slob because moms think they still have time to cure you of your bad habits before you grow up and become an annoying adult slob for someone else.

Change that nasty shirt, Mom ordered when she spotted the crusty bib of dried blood across my chest.

I looked down at my shirt. Hey, how come this blood is brown? I asked. Last night it was red.

It is too early in the morning to mess with me, she replied. Just change the shirt and get moving. I’m going back to bed.

I didn’t change the shirt. Only a few spots of blood had soaked through, so I just turned it inside out as I walked down the narrow hall, past my small room, through the airless living room, and out the front door and down the three porch steps. All the Norvelt houses were built to look the same. It was like I was stepping out of one of those little green houses in a Monopoly game.

The dark grass was wet with morning dew and a little squeaky under my sneakers. It was tall enough for me to cut. I might be a slob but I kept the yard looking tidy because Dad allowed me to drive our big garden tractor with a mower attachment on the back. I’d love to drive a car, and just thinking of that word, drive, made me look toward the drive-in on the hill and wonder if the bullet I fired had passed cleanly over Norvelt and punctured the screen. From where I paused, the screen was a solid black square and I’d never know if I had hit that tiny Japanese soldier and put a hole in the screen unless I got up close to it, which I promised myself I would do before the summer was over.

Above the screen the western sky was still dark and the stars looked like holes from missed shots. It was a good thing John Glenn had orbited the earth back in February. If he’d still been up there last night I might have shot his Friendship 7 space capsule out of the air and started a world war. That would be just my luck. My uncle who had painted the pony claimed he had seen a UFO come down over that very same hill before the drive-in was built. He was in the newspaper and said he had touched the UFO and that it was covered in a strange Martian language that looked like chicken feet. My dad called my uncle a nut, but it wasn’t so nutty when the army sent troops and a big truck to take the mysterious UFO away and afterward military police went door-to-door to all the little towns around here, warning people not to talk about "the fallen object" with any strangers as they might be Russian spies.

Because my mind wanders in the morning my feet are always a few steps ahead of me and suddenly I found myself on Miss Volker’s back porch. There was a large heart-shaped box of chocolates covered in red foil leaning against her door. I bent down and picked up the box. A small note card was tucked under the decorative red lace ribbon. I knew I shouldn’t read it, but I couldn’t help myself. I loved to know other people’s personal business. Mom called me a gossip lover. But I called it whisper history, so as quickly as I could I pulled out the card and flipped it over. It was from Mr. Spizz. The handwriting was all chunky printing that leaned forward just like words blasting out of his mouth. It read, I’m still ready, willing and waiting. Your swain since 1912 with the patience of Job. —Edwin Spizz.

He was patient—1912 was fifty years ago. Waiting for what, I wondered. I didn’t know what a swain was. I put the card back into the envelope and slipped it under the ribbon. Mr. Spizz was with my uncle the night they found the UFO. Dad called him the town busybody. Mr. Spizz was an original Norvelter and worked for the Norvelt Association for the Public Good. He thought he was a big deal around town, but he was kind of sinister and lived and worked out of a tiny office in the moldy basement of the Community Center.

I rapped on Miss Volker’s door with my knuckles. Miss Volker! I called out loudly because her hearing aid might still be waterlogged from the toilet. It’s Jack Gantos. I’m here to help you.

Come in! she cawed like a pirate parrot.

I pushed the door to and stuck my head inside. Hello?

In the kitchen, she squawked.

I followed the smell of bacon and entered the kitchen where I was surprised to see her leaning over the gas stove with her hands inside a wide, tall pot and her face all screwed up in agony. I could tell by the leaf-size flames under the pot that it had to be scalding hot, and right away I was wondering if she was melting herself down. Mom had always said she was worth her weight in gold to our little town. But before I could start a conversation about Inca gold she said, Sit and eat, and nodded her stiff bush of bluish cotton-candy hair toward a chair at the kitchen table where a plate had been set with bacon, eggs, and toast.

I found these chocolates on the porch, I said, and offered her the box.

Put them on the table! she ordered without removing her hands from the pot.

There is a card too, I pointed out.

"You can just throw that in the trash!" she snapped.

Trash? I asked. Don’t you want to know who it’s from?

It’s from the same hopeless case as always! she said. "Now trash it!"

I tossed the card in the trash like she said. I put the chocolates on the table and when I sat down she began to talk as if someone were sticking her with sharp pins. Thank you for coming! she cried out, and did a spastic tippy-toe dance. Today, she squeaked, we are about to embark on a great experiment! Then she took a deep breath, shifted her hips around, and

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  • (5/5)
    Jack Gantos is such a clever and funny writer. I haven't read any of his works since the Joey Pigza days. This one was actually based "kinda" on his own life. The setting is early 1962, so if you are of that era you will get an even greater understanding of references to bomb shelters, the Japs and so on. The story takes place over two months in the summer when Jack is out of school and expecting a fun break from school. Instead, he is caught in the middle of his feuding parents where he becomes grounded for the whole summer? His one saving grace is when his mother allows him to help out an old eccentric woman who writes the obituaries for the local paper. Her hands are arthritic so Jack learns to type on an ancient typewriter for her. There is a mystery involving the numerous deaths of the old ladies of Norvelt. I think the end will surprise you as it did me.
  • (3/5)
    It is hard to know how to describe this story. It is supposed to be a melding of events that are entirely true and wildly fictional. I, for one, have no idea which were which. This is historical fiction taking place in the summer of 1962 about a young boy named Jack Gantos is a poor Pennsylvania town. The town was almost a character in this novel. Norvelt was created and begun by Eleanor Roosevelt as a way for the poor to get homes. Now the town is dying and so are the elderly residents. This dying town is a source of conflict between Jack's parents. His mom is a life-long resident and doesn't want to leave. She embraces the lifestyle and the ideals that founded the town. His dad wants to move a way to get, as he says, "a bigger slice of the pie." His dad is convinced that the town is dead and sensible people leave.Jack is caught in between this summer that he turns twelve. After a loaded gun incident and a "mowing down the corn that his mother has planted to feed the hungry to build the fallout shelter (or runway) his father wants." young Jack is grounded - perhaps for life. His only escape is when his mother lends him out to an elderly neighbor. Miss Volker is crippled by arthritis and needs Jack's help. She is also one of the original residents of Norvelt and was charged by Mrs. Roosevelt to be the nurse and medical examiner for the community. Miss Volker is determined to keep her promise to Mrs. Roosevelt to stay until the last original resident is gone. She has taken it upon herself to write obituaries for each of the elderly residents as they die. She needs Jack to do the writing and then type them up on her old typewriter. Miss Volker also adds history - both of the town and of the world - to each obituary.When Jack isn't with Miss Volker, he is usually in his room reading his collection of Landmark biographies and reflecting on them, or, he is digging in the yard for his father's fallout shelter. Jack also is plagued by very frequent nose bleeds. Any time there is any stress or excitement, Jack's nose bleeds. His parents are too poor to have the doctor fix the problem - and he won't barter for the service as Jack's mom hopes. But Miss Volker has a plan that involves surgery on her kitchen table. This was a quiet book that was filled with lots of quotable text and arresting images. What it wasn't filled with was much action. It reads to me as a quiet but sort-of weird, old-fashioned story of a slice of pretty ordinary life. Jack is an interesting and thoughtful observer of the events around him. But even his best friend Bunny Huffer thinks he is sort of weird.I'm not sure what sort of reader that I could give this to. I think that it might make an appealing read-aloud title with a teacher leading the discussion about that time in history.
  • (4/5)
    The writing was good, the characters were interesting and quirky, and the setting felt very real. But I got to the end of the story and thought, "And?" I'm not sure what the point was, other than maybe to just paint a picture of a time that is gone. Maybe a second reading would change my impressions.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (2/5)
    Ages 10 and up, Grade 5 and up.I would recommend not reading this book during lunch, the bloody nose accidents got a bit much. Jack Gantos, grounded for life is assigned by his mother to help an elderly neighbor, Miss Volker write obits for their Norvelt neighbors, who have died. Through out the book odd pieces pop up as part of the plot from Hell Angels, to the very odd ending with Jack and his father. I am surprise that this is a Newbery .I thought "Okay For Now" was a more interesting book.
  • (5/5)
    Jack is caught between his arguing parents. His mother has grounded him for firing a Japanese gun his father owned. She has also volunteered him to help Mrs. Volker, a neighbor who writes obituaries.Mrs. Volker has arthritis in her hands and can no longer write or type up the obituaries for the Norvelt News. Through the obituaries she tells the history of the deceased. The deceased have recently become the original women of the town of Norvelt. Jack loves this new job since he loves history. He has one problem, if he gets overly excited his nose will begin to bleed. As the elderly women of Norvelt begin to drop like flies, people are beginning to wonder if it is murder. Mrs. Volker examines the bodies and pronounces each death that of natural causes. Not everyone is convinced. Could she be hiding something? This was a wonderful book full of history and lessons that the reader won’t mind learning. The mystery was enough to keep you reading, yet not so difficult you couldn’t figure it out. Highly recommended reading.
  • (4/5)
    I picked up this book because of the connection to Eleanor Roosevelt, who I greatly admire, and the proximity of the community to my hometown. Jack Gantos and I grew up at the same time, in similar communities with similar concerns. But I didn't know anyone like Miss Volker who made Jack's summer of house arrest a delight. I particularly liked reading her obituaries and wished in a perverse way that there were more of them. A lot is going on in this book with Jack's parents and his own life but our lives are messy and I consider this more of a fictional biography than just a story so I wasn't put off by that. It was a delightful book and I think young boys would appreciate the war talk while young girls might like the writing of the obits. I would target this book at the 10-12 age group.
  • (3/5)
    Gantos does a very good job of presenting the world from the 12 year boy's point of view. There is some seriously sad material in here but it is also transcendent.
  • (5/5)
    Finally a really great Newbery! I might have my faith in the award renewed based on this winner!
  • (4/5)
    This is a good example of a historical fiction as the author creates a story of a small town in Pennsylvania and the events that could have happened there in 1962. Several of the older citizens of the town die and Jack takes dictation as his older neighbor, the feisty Miss Volker writes obituaries for some of the last surviving members of the original community. The author includes us in the thoughts of the main character, Jack, in such a way that we uncover the secrets of the town of Norvelt as he writes, learns and questions many strange happenings during two summer months of 1962. The book won the Newbery Award for 2012.
  • (4/5)
    Delightful coming of age story during Cold War-era America about a tween who is forced to help a community elder type up obituaries during his Summer break. The audiobook is read by the author which is a true treat. Often funny and always entertaining, I highly recommend this audiobook for a family road trip.  
  • (5/5)
    Jack's plans for summer vacation fun are shot down when he is grounded for life by his parents. But he still ends up with plenty of excitement when his mom loans him out to an old neighbor to help her type obituaries for the founders of his small hometown of Norvelt.I really enjoyed the blend of humor, history and drama in this book. The town of Norvelt is full of colorful, quirky characters, and as Miss Volker dictates the obituaries for those who die in the course of the story, she sprinkles in accounts of historic events that somehow connect to them, adding some life lessons into the mix as well. It definitely deserved the awards it got!
  • (4/5)
    Pre-teen Jack Gantos is looking forward to the summer of 1962 in Norvelt, Pennsylvania, until he does something so stupid that his mother grounds him for life. Now he is actually looking forward to helping Miss Volker write obituaries for the elderly original residents who are dying right and left. It's about the only way he'll get out of the house. Jack learns a lot during the summer – about the history of the town's founding by Eleanor Roosevelt, about the cycle of history and the importance of learning from the mistakes of the past, about life, and about about death.I'm not sure I would have enjoyed this book when I was the age of its target audience. I would have probably viewed it as a book with more appeal for boys than for girls of that age. I appreciate it more as an adult reader, although I'm not as impressed with it as the Newbery panelists were. Even with the quirky setting, eccentric characters, and the underlying pathos of a dying town, it seems to be missing some special spark. It was worth reading once, but it isn't a book I'll want to revisit.
  • (5/5)
    This book is a bit long for how slowly it unfolds, but the persistent reader will be rewarded with a rich, and informative joyride through the fast paced thrill ride of rural Pennsylvania in 1962. I am joking. Or am I? You will find sniper rifles, Hells Angels, personal aircraft, arson, conspiracy, and even mass murder. Am I joking?!? A very good book worthy of all its accolades.
  • (5/5)
    There are authors you suspect must be dead. Face it, when you haven’t heard anything from an author in years, you think they must have passed on and perhaps you just missed seeing the obit.I thought Jack Gantos was dead. Well, I thought he was dead until I saw him at last fall’s Texas Book Festival, alive, amazingly, with Elvis Costello glasses and shirt and pants, like was an image straight from the Kennedy sixties. Oddly, he wasn’t a geezer, either, just a older fellow, very close to my own age.He’d just come out with a new Rotten Ralph book and I thought that was it. Then I heard a fan congratulate him on his new YA novel, raving about it in the way that readers often do when confronted with a book author, so I wasn’t terribly sure whether the new book was really worth seeking out. After all, I’d never even checked out any of the Joey Pigza books; I really think I’d forgotten Jack Gantos was even connected with them.And then Dead End in Norvelt wins the Newbery this week. Then it’s a done deal; I read every Newbery.It came in for me at the library yesterday and I immediately started to read. What a yummy book. Hilariously funny in a Richard Peck-ish, A Christmas Story-ish kind of way. You’ve got your main character, a boy Jack Gantos imaginatively names Jack Gantos, living in a town named Norvelt, the town Gantos actually grew up in, in the early sixties, who manages to shoot off a Japanese rifle from WWII and get himself grounded for the entire summer. His parents only give him dispensation to help out an arthritic old lady with her obituary writing for the paper. But this kid somehow, during the course of this summer, meets up with the Hells Angels, a funeral home, murders, digs a bomb shelter, drops water balloons from a vintage plane, gets his blood-dripping nose cauterized, and writes the most incredibly interesting obituaries I’ve ever seen.Crazy-funny.
  • (3/5)
     Quirky, funny story of the summer in Jack's life when he was banned from fun and found himself assisting aged Mrs. Volker in writing obituaries and fulfilling Eleanor Roosevelt's mission for her. Somehow though, there's an awful lot of old biddies dying in Norvelt. Is Mrs. Volker guilty?
  • (4/5)
    This is supposed to be a middle grade novel, but I enjoyed it immensely myself. It provides a look back on the early Sixties from a young boy's point of view, and I didn’t feel it was too simplistic for an adult in the least. I listened in the car (the author reads it himself) and often found myself laughing out loud and repeating anecdotes later to my husband as if it were about a boy we both knew.The book is touted as semi-autobiographical, sharing with us one memorable summer in 1962 for 11 year-old Jack Gantos, who was grounded for almost the entire period. The only time he was allowed out was to help an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Volker, who composed the local obituaries. As it turned out, Jack got out quite a bit, since all the old ladies in town were dying mysteriously.Mrs. Volker likes to combine her obituaries with history lessons, so we learn a lot about “this day in history” along with Jack, and how the lessons of the past apply to the present. We also learn about the irony of Jack's particular situation in Norvelt, Pennsylvania, where people were caught up in taking advantage of the opportunities of capitalism even while constantly reviling the threat of the “Commies.” The funny part was that Norvelt (named for EleaNOR RooseVELT) is a real town that was created during the depression by the US government as a model "socialist" community, intended to increase the standard of living of laid-off coal miners. It is hard not to get caught up in Jack’s enthusiasm as he gets excited over all that he is learning, and when he begins an amateur sleuthing effort to solve the mystery of the rash of deaths in the town. By the end of the summer, he has learned some great lessons about life, and won our hearts as well.Evaluation: This is a joyous book that will appeal to kids of all ages, including the adult kind.
  • (2/5)
    I read this because it won the Newbery in 2012. It is the10th Newbery winner I've read. It is a spoof and the things related have not resmblance to anyhing which would be likely to happen. The 12 year old boy, called jack Gantos, types obituaries for an old aldy--the boy has no typing training but takes down dictation like a veterand secretary, and has never typed or driven a car but does such with aplomb. A 12-year-old reader might think it was mgreat, but I thought it fantasti and silly. But if I had been 12 I might have appreciated the umor and the dramatic events.
  • (4/5)
    Jack did a really dumb thing. Then he did another really dumb thing, and now he's grounded for the entire summer, allowed out of the house only to help his elderly neighbor by transcribing the obituaries she writes as native Norvelters die off. Jack gets out of the house a surprising amount for one summer.

    There was a lot that made me smile in this; I really enjoyed it. And it's so nice to see a Newbery winner that isn't all doom-and-gloom AngstFest. I did spend half the audio thinking "This won an Odyssey honor and Libba Bray's Beauty Queens got nothing?" before realizing that this didn't get an Odyssey honor. It's not bad, but Gantos has a slightly choppy way of speaking, putting extra pauses in the middle of his sentences.

    And when he gets going, he sounds a little like David Sedaris.
  • (4/5)
    The book is written for children, perhaps ages 10-12, so I'll try to keep that in mind for the review. However, I hear it's also a Newbery Medal winner so maybe it deserves a little bit of criticism.The writing style is excellent though the story itself has a few problems. Author Jack Gantos has a flair for expressing silly and absurd moments, but that didn't do much to help me like the characters. The main character, eleven-year-old Jack, is the most honest and endearing, but he spends the whole book getting yelled at or scolded. His mother, his elderly neighbor, Mrs. Volker, and his girlfriend all use him as a verbal punching bag.
  • (3/5)
    Dead End in Norvelt is Jack Gantos' chronicle of an exciting summer filled with death, blood, and emotional growth.12 year old Jack spends his summer working with an arthritic neighbor, Miss Volker. He writes a series of impassioned obituaries dictated to him by Miss Volker for the local paper. An alarming number of Norvelt original homeowners are dying in quick secession. What starts out of an quirky summer turns into a murder mystery. There are very funny sections of this book and I enjoyed it overall. The depiction on his relationship with his parents and the parents relationship with each other rings true to me. I also like the historical nagets built into the story.Is it worthy of a Newbery Medal, maybe!
  • (4/5)
    One of the reviews on the back of the edition I have calls this a "gothic comedy". I would have to agree that it's a good assessment. Young Jack Gantos has quite a summer of '62 waiting for him. Plagued with nosebleeds, grounded for the whole summer after a misunderstanding with a Japanese firearm, Jack is only free from his chore of digging at home to assist an elderly neighbor, Miss Volker. Norvelt is a dying town, built up after the Depression to help displaced people get back on their feet, the original Norvelters are dying off and Miss Volker is in charge of the obits. There is a lot of history in the book, both of the town and the world, as Miss Volker and Jack (through his Landmark series of books) tell us many of them via the book. I was glad to read this Newbery winner, but would love to know what someone more of the target age thinks about it.
  • (5/5)
    Laughed out loud in so many places. Haven't read a funny book in a long time. The best part is that most of the book is about the author's life. Recomment for all.
  • (3/5)
    Norvelt, Pennsylvania in the 1960s is the setting for this 2011 Newbery winner that recounts the strangely engaging summer of 11 yr old Jack Gantos and the cast of characters that populate his small town.
  • (5/5)
    This is a great book of quirky characters and seemingly wild situations that Jack Gantos experienced one summer growing up (fictionalized in order to exaggerate or so he wouldn't need to remember perfectly?). The various characters are so well drawn that I really believe they were as described. The best character is Miss Volker, the elderly neighbor who is determined to fulfill her promise to Eleanor Roosevelt to carefully document the deaths of the founding members of their town, Norvelt. She is feisty, demanding, opinionated, fearless, and doesn't let her almost useless arthritic hands stop her from doing anything. Jack himself is also great fun, as well as his parents and the other almost nutty residents of his town. It also gives quite a good history lesson about how many chores kids used to have to do on a regular basis, as well as how much freedom they had to roam (when they weren't grounded!) I hope kids, especially boys, find this book and enjoy it as much as adults surely will.
  • (4/5)
    Young Jack Gantos is growing up in the town of Norvelt, Pennsylvania, a town that was founded by Eleanor Roosevelt as a place where poor people could live with dignity and where folks could trade their services instead of depend on cash. Now, in the decade after World War 2, the Norvelt "originals" are older and dying, and poor Jack is grounded because he let off his father's gun and caused a scare. Miss Volker, his older neighbor with arthritic hands, is Jack's "get out of jail free" card when she calls and needs his help writing obituaries.This year's Newbery Award winner is the first book I've read by Jack Gantos, but now I want to go back and read his other books. His narrative follows a typical summer in that it's more episodic a traditional plot line, though Norvelt has its share of quirky, original characters and more than a few of the events are unbelievable. Jack's parents are great, and their interactions ring true, how they disagree fundamentally about some things, but also love each other as much as they drive each other nuts. I was regularly chuckling or even laughing out loud at some of the events (some of the obits in particular stand out memorably). This story was a lot of fun to read, and I'll certainly be recommending it to kids at the library.
  • (4/5)
    This autobiographical novel based on Jack Gantos's own childhood hits many of the marks of a great book and audiobook. Jack Gantos narrates his own story as only he can. The reading's a little weird and a little quirky, but if you've ever heard him speak, you know that's just how he is. Since the story is somewhat based on his own childhood, it's very fitting that he narrates. I love the characters that Mr. Gantos creates here and I love that the town of Norvelt is almost another character in the story. The story has a lot of humor and I think it will appeal to guy readers. I'd hand it to fans of the Grandma Dowdel books by Richard Peck.
  • (4/5)
    I liked this book, but I didn't love it. I listened to the audio version read by Jack Gantos himself. In the beginning, I was really into the story...I loved how outrageous and hilarious everything is. He writes in this really unique voice and the story is full of unpredictable details and twists. Near the end, though, I got kind of tired of the story and was just ready for it to end.

    I still enjoyed it , though. Truly. Jack Gantos is a piece of work.
  • (4/5)
    Reason for Reading: The book is this year's (2012) Newbery Medal winner and I always read each new winner as I'm working my way through the entire list. I had never read this author before.Having never read Jack Gantos before, honestly I've never looked past the titles of the others, I didn't know what to expect from this award winning novel. I was very pleasantly pleased. While set in Pennsylvania (in the existing town of Norvelt) the book is written with a typical Southern flare including a cast of eccentric characters. The book is suitable for those tween years (10-14) and made for a very engaging read. Since the boy in the book is named Jack Gantos and the author bio on the back cover tells us Jack actually grew up in a town called Norvelt we can probably surmise that this tale contains some biographical elements of the author's own childhood.A coming of age story, this book focuses on the summer a boy turns twelve, he has been grounded for a serious mishap for the entire summer. The motley cast of characters include his neighbour to whom his mother hires him out to help write the obituary's for the town's original settlers, Mrs. Volker is crippled with arthritis of the hands and has lived an exciting life which she shares with Jackie both through conversation and the obits. There is crazy old man Spizz, who is like the town's by-line enforcer and he rides around town on a giant adult tricycle. Jack's best friend, Bunny, a girl his age who is half his size and is meaner and tougher than almost any guy around is ticked off that Jack can't play at all this summer. With being grounded to his room, Jack spends a great deal of his time reading, having an old set of Landmark History books, he quickly reads through those and imparts what he's read and thought cool back to the reader. This really endeared him to me as I went through a period in my life in which I read all those books too. Another thing about Jack, which some readers may find odd, but also endeared me to him right away is that he has numerous nosebleeds. His seem to come on whenever he gets uptight, nervous or scared. Then his nose blows a gaskets and bleeds everywhere. Medically the capillaries are too close to the surface in his nose and need to be cauterized but his poor family has to save up, very slowly, for this. I too had constant nose bleeds as a child and right up into my mid-twenties, for the exact same reason! Mine were brought on by climate changes. Hot/sunny one day, chilly/damp the next and I was sure to have a nose bleed. They occurred where ever I was: on the bus, in the movies, walking down the street, etc. I was told about the operation but my bleeds just gradually stopped when I moved to a much higher altitude and they've never returned even though I've returned to the low altitude.This was my type of book, along with the quirky characters, add in a running theme of death, wry humour, a possible murder going on, strange events going on in his Dad's workshop, and you have an exciting, never dull story of a boy coming of age, of a town trying not to die, a family that loves one another and a place where neighbours still care for each other. A good read. I'm enticed to at least take look at Ganto's other books, now.
  • (4/5)
    I did enjoy this book a lot, and wish I could be a crazy grandmother some day too. I think I appreciate it more now that I live in a small town.