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 . . .
Léna is also a Regional Manager for Writopia Lab whose mission is to foster joy, literacy, and critical thinking in kids and teens from all backgrounds through creative writing.
"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.