Tuesday, October 30, 2012

MMGM: Dead End In Norvelt by Jack Gantos [Audio Version]

About the Book: 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 feisty 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 launched 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.
First Line: 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.
One Great Line: “...who proved that you don't have to do what your parents want, or what your boyfriend wants, for you to be happy. You just have to be yourself, for there is no love greater than self love”

What Others Are Saying: “This is a brilliant book, full of history, mystery, and laughs. It reminded me of my small-town childhood, although my small town was never as delightfully weird as Norvelt.” —Dave Barry

“A bit of autobiography works its way into all of Gantos’s work, but he one-ups himself in this wildly entertaining meld of truth and fiction by naming the main character… Jack Gantos.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Awards:Newbery Medal (2012), Scott O'Dell Award (2012), Boston Author's Club Young Reader Award Nominee (2012)

What I Thought: The minute I heard Jack Gantos reading his own story I was hooked. It is always interesting to listen to an author read their own work. The descriptions were colorful and incredibly visceral. "...still dazed and bleeding and completely motionless, except for the steady drops of blood ticking off seconds against the dry summer grass."(320) is just one of the lines that bring you to the front and center stage of action. Gantos is adept in presenting bits and pieces of history in snappy, immediately interesting blurbs that foster interest in further research. His voice drips off the page but hearing it gave a certain edge to this semi-autobiographical tale. A great read-aloud with many points that inspire discussion.

About The Author: Jack Gantos

Who: "Jack was born in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, and grew up in the nearby town of Norvelt. He remembers playing a lot of “pass the chalk” in Mrs. Neiderheizer’s class in first grade. He was in the Bluebird reading group, which he later found out was for the slow readers. To this day he’d rather be called a Bluebird than a slow reader. His favorite game at that time was playing his clothes were on fire and rolling down a hill to save himself.

When he was seven, his family moved to Barbados. He attended British schools, where there was much emphasis on reading and writing. Students were friendly but fiercely competitive, and the teachers made learning a lot of fun. By fifth grade he had managed to learn 90 percent of what he knows to this very day." —Jack Gantos Website
When: "The seeds for Jack’s writing career were planted in sixth grade, when he read his sister’s diary and decided he could write better than she could. He begged his mother for a diary and began to collect anecdotes he overheard at school, mostly from standing outside the teachers’ lounge and listening to their lunchtime conversations. Later, he incorporated many of these anecdotes into stories." —Jack Gantos Website

Jack Gantos' desk, with journals at the ready.   
Why: Talking about his sister, Gantos says, "When she left the house I did read her diary. It was an awful, unethical thing to do, but I was compelled. I read it, and it wasn’t terribly interesting to me. I’m not trying to run my sister down, but it seemed to me that she was missing all the good stuff of life—the juicy stuff. Here we were moving from western Pennsylvania to Cape Hatteras to Barbados to St. Lucia to Miami—you know, there was a lot going on! We were bouncing from one neighborhood to another and they all were filled with crazy characters who did the wildest things—but none of that stuff made the diary."I thought, "That’s really peculiar, because the world I’m living with and in is really interesting.” So I got my little red diary and got started." —Jack Gantos Website

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  1. The odd, quirky bits in this book made it a lot of fun!

    - Jessica @ Book Sake

  2. Love his eavesdropping and journaling technique. I've done both, myself. Sounds like a great read.

  3. I liked this, but not quite as much as Gary Schmidt's Okay for Now, which has a weirdly similar cover (but then so do a lot of YA novels with headless girls. :)).

  4. Thanks for this review and reminding me about this book. I gave the audio book to my nephew and he loved it. He gave it to a friend, who also loved it. Maybe I should have listened to it first. I think I will borrow it back.

  5. I never got around to reading this last year and it is on my TBR list still. It sounds so fun! But I have to admit this line turns me off: "for there is no love greater than self love”. Really?

  6. I loved this one when I read it on my own and was planning to re-read it aloud to my daughter sometime this year. Maybe we should listen to the audio version as we do so...

  7. Enjoyed reading this and so did my 12 yr old son. Entertaining and heartwarming story that really grabs you. It got me so curious that I had to look up a few things when I finished to see if it was based on truth or fiction.


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