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Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos. I wasn’t surprised to hear Jack Gantos had won the Newbery Medal. He has a quirky writing style that meshes hysterical comedy with gut-wrenching, quiet drama. How could the committee resist this main character, aptly named Jack Gantos? Is this winner a memoir or fiction? Even if the story began with only a sliver of truth, Mr. Gantos is lucky to have survived his colorful childhood. Jack is spending his summer grounded for firing off a Japanese gun his father brought home from WWII. He didn’t load the bullet, but no one believes him. So Jack is stuck running errands for his mother and being loaned out for work as penance. His hometown of Norvelt, Pennsylvania is dying out. Literally. And Jack is tasked with the duty of transcribing the obituary writer’s words as the oldtimers die off one after another. I alternated between laughing until I cried and sniffling around until Jack made me laugh again. He doesn’t wallow in his mucked up summer, instead sets about with his crazy logic creating more chaos. No one is quite like Jack Gantos, but if you like Captain Underpants, Dragonbreath, or Jon Scieszka, Dead End in Norvelt is your kind of crazy.

Cathy R.

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