Léna's Lit.Life

Léna (me): Lit, as in literature, Lit, as in light, Lit, as in a little kooky: Life.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

InbeTWEEN Pages: Dead End in Norvelt

I was thrilled to be asked to lead a middle school book club at the Bedford Hills Free Library and even more thrilled when my own 6th grader, Cooper, agreed to join. We had our second meeting last night, where we discussed our first book pic, Dead End in Norvelt by my new author crush, Jack Gantos.

Thank you Francine, owner of the much beloved Voracious Reader in Larchmont for the recommendation! This book is an excellent example of storytelling, with rich characters who jump off the page. Gantos takes us on a fascinating ride that helps his readers  understand the importance of learning from our past. How does he do this? Through our protagonist, Jack (Jack Gantos himself) and our unlikely heroine, Miss Volker.

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 fiesty 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 launced 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.

Dead End in Norvelt was not only a huge hit with me, but it was a home run for the tweens. They loved the interweaving of history through this book that's set in rural Pennsylvania in the summer of 1962. The writing was so textured, that I had to stop myself from underlining passages as I was reading a library book! (Jack Gantos, if you are reading this, I am buying my own copy for you to sign for me, because meeting you someday is now on my bucket list!)

We all wanted to know what was fact and what was fiction in this book. Did Jack Gantos the author really have an anxiety disorder that manifested itself through nosebleeds? And did he really have an old lady cauterize his nose on her kitchen table?

We also named ourselves so that we are a real entity in our community. Seventh grader and Writopian, Sammy, came up with InbeTWEEN Pages and that moniker was unanimously agreed upon by the 6th - 8th graders in our "club". We will be meeting the second Wednesday of every month, so if you are a tween or love a tween who also loves to read and live in Northern Westchester, our current read for January is A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Maas.

Hope to see YOU inbetween some pages!

PS  Today is the last day to enter the contest to win a signed copy of Edges - in book or audio form. Multiple chances to win! Enter here . . .
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  1. This sounds like a terrific book. Thanks for the details. I'll have to give it a read.

  2. It was a treat to read AND to discuss!

  3. Hi there, My name is Arlene Jennings, and I am a newly published author of a child's book, from Point Clear, Alabama. I have never blogged, going to get my sister to help me with page tomorrow. As I was going through some blogs, looking for people who have done child's books, and you are the only person who even mentioned children out of a lot I clicked on. What is the date you arrive Mobile? Location? My book is available on Xlibris.com Under Arlene De'Sha Jennings called "Stories that Rhyme for Anytime." I will have more information in a few days, I self published and hate it is in black and white, but i believe the contents to be great! One of my favorite chapters to accomplish was, "Rhymes to God," an easy way to teach kids to pray. Anyway, wanted to introduce myself, and tell you i enjoyed your blog, and wanted to get information about when you are coming...you can email me, until I have a page? I guess? New at this...@ arlyndjennings@gmail.com with info, thanks...arlene jennings

  4. Dear Arlene - I am so glad that you commented and introduced yourself! And congratulations on the publication of your first children's book.

    I will be in Mobile, Alabama, March 1st - 3rd, sponsored by the Mobile Writer's Guild. Here is the link to their website, and the registration for one of my workshops, Mining Your Life for your Fiction. http://mobilewritersguild.com/2011/12/31/registration-is-now-open-for-our-march-workshop/