Erin Dixon's Reviews > Dead End in Norvelt

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
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Apr 23, 12

bookshelves: eced-221, future-teacher-shelf
Read from April 16 to 23, 2012

2012 Newberry Medal
SUMMARY: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos is about Jack, a young boy who is grounded all summer for running over his mother's cornfield. The only excitement he is allowed to experience is helping his neighbor, Miss Volker, write obituaries for the town newspaper. The obituaries become more and more frequent throughout the summer though, and Jack must do what he can to prove that Miss Volker is not the murderer in their small hometown of Norvelt.
CRTIQUE: Dead End in Norvelt would be considered contemporary realistic fiction, and the book fits that genre to a tee because it is a story that is believable, while at the same time you know that it is fiction because some parts are a little too out there. The setting takes place in Norvelt in 1964, and Jack Gantos is the main character. The characterization is perfect because all of the characters in the story could be people that you know in your life. The plot is engaging because you do not realize that there is more than one conflict until almost the end of the book. At first, you think that the only problem is that Jack is grounded for the summer, but when Miss Volker is accused of murdering all of the old women in the town, you cannot put the book down until you see what happens. The theme of the story is hard to determine, but I would say that it is that something good can come out of something bad. Jack cuts down his mother's corn and is grounded, but he befriends an old woman and learns so much about his town because of it. Gantos was most likely thinking about readers who love history when he wrote this book, because there are so many interesting facts in the story. The story is written in first person, and Gantos uses voice to help show exactly what Jack is like. The characters in this story are a little far-fetched, but at the same time the book is based off of Jack Gantos's life, and he is from outside of Pittsburgh, so characters like his family and neighbors are not hard to come by. The events are also somewhat far-fetched, but there is truth to the story, especially the historical elements. The plot resolution threw me for a loop, so the ending is very believable. Unless the children that are reading this story figure it out early on, you have no idea what is happening to the old women; there are just too many suspects to figure out which one is the actual killer.
REPONSE: I loved this book. I think Jack Gantos is so funny, and there were parts that were making me laugh out loud. I am not sure if I would use this entire book in my classroom because, depending on the grade level, it may not be appropriate for the age group that I am teaching, but the sections with the historical information could be a resource in my classroom because the historical information is from all time periods, and covers all different areas of information.
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