Book Review: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

I loved, loved, loved “Dead End in Norvelt” by Jack Gantos.  This is a perfect book for your middle grader boy or girl.  I’m not sure what category it falls into: historical fiction, humor or mystery because it has all three.  Jack does a wonderful job depicting life in Norvelt, and it just happens to be about a boy named, Jack Gantos.

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It’s the start of summer vacation, and Jack gets caught in the middle of his dad’s schemes and his mother’s quest to help those less fortunate and suddenly Jack is grounded for life.  Part of Jack’s punishment is he has to help the old neighbor lady with a mysterious chore.  Turns out he helps her by typing up obituaries which are filled with stories of the founding members of Norvelt who are dying off one by one.  Throw in some rat poison, Hell’s Angels, a man rides a trike, a WWII Japanese rifle, constant nose bleeds and Jack’s dad building a landing strip and bomb shelter…you’ve got quite a story.  Jack throws in some history, which doesn’t make it seem like you’re actually learning anything.  And perhaps there is a murder or two, maybe three.

Jack has a clever witty style of writing that doesn’t talk down to kids.  The fact that this is based on his own life and the real town of Norvelt makes it even better.   I’m looking forward to reading “From Norvelt to Nowhere”.