Dead End in Novelt by Jack Gantos

Children’s Review

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos
Recommended Ages 5th to 9th grade
CD Dead End in Norvelt

Summer is here and 13-year-old Jack  is looking forward to baseball and fun.  When his mother catches him with his father’s gun and then he plows her corn field at his dad’s insistence.  Jack  is punished for the summer.  His only escape from home and constant chores is helping elderly neighbor Miss Volker.  Though at first glance it seems like the most boring summer of his life, Jack is presented with surprises and some very comical and often outrageous events.

Jack has a big problem that happens when he is shocked or sicken from things he has no control over,  he gets terrible nose bleeds.  Of course his best friend Bunny makes things worse when she tells him the details of her father’s work at the funeral home.  Miss Volker  town historian, nurse and medical examiner has all kids of gross  jobs for him because the an unusual amount of deaths lately. He does learn to type and gets to drive her car which seem to be the  only perks of the summer.   There are fires, motorcycle gangs,  lots of blood and possibly a string of murders.

The listener feels that they are back in the 1960’s with the talk of bomb-shelters and transistor radios. This semi-autobiographical book written and narrated by Gantos is a fabulous audio book.  Each person has their own distinct personality crafted with precision through written and spoken word.  It sends the listener into the world of 13-year-old Jack, his family, friends and neighbors in an uncommon but comfortable way.  Norvelt is like a realistic Mayberry, a place that is interesting to visit and difficult to leave. Dead End in Norvelt is the winner of the 2012 Newbery Medal and the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The sequel From Norvelt to Nowhere recently came out in print and audio.  Find out more about Jack Gantos and his books at


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