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.
Chances are you'll like this one more than I did. Many people have, after all, it did win the Newbery this year. But. For me. Dead End in Norvelt wasn't that great a book. It wasn't that funny--at least I didn't find bloody noses and dead bodies to be all that hilarious. (Jack Gantos is NOT Richard Peck. And Dead End in Norvelt isn't A Long Way From Chicago or A Year Down Yonder.)
So, the hero of this novel, Jack Gantos, spends most of his summer vacation grounded. Put into a difficult place by both parents. His mother is keeping secret an incident involving Jack and his father's Japanese gun. As long as he stays on her good side, he may live to see the summer through. His father wants Jack to mow down his mother's corn fields. He plans to build a runway for a plane he just bought, and he's also working on a bomb shelter. Both projects, of course, just have to be right where his mother planted corn. His father doesn't want his mother to know about the plane, at least not yet. What's a boy to do?
So. Even before the family drama gets a chance to begin, his mother volunteers him to help out Miss Volker. He'll be writing/typing out obituaries for the newspaper. Each obituary features something about the life of the deceased--as is only right and proper--and something of a historical aside. Miss Volker has some strange, strange ideas on what historical facts, what historical figures, are relevant. The summer Jack's grounded, Miss Volker keeps him very, very, very busy. For SO MANY old people are dying this year. Miss Volker is the medical examiner, I believe, as well as the person writing the obituary, so she's always interested in who's going to be next. She seems a little too excited about her job...
I just didn't like the characters all that much. And the story, well, it just didn't thrill me. All the history lessons felt odd to me. It reminded me of Arsenic and Old Lace. How that film was supposed to be funny too.
Read Dead End in Norvelt
- If you're a fan of Jack Gantos
- If you're a fan of historical fiction set in the 1960s
- If you're a fan of boy stories, boy humor
- If you're reading Newbery books
© 2012 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews