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Dead End in Norvelt

Dead End in Norvelt - There are authors you suspect must be dead. Face it, when you haven’t heard anything from an author in years, you think they must have passed on and perhaps you just missed seeing the obit.I thought Jack Gantos was dead. Well, I thought he was dead until I saw him at last fall’s Texas Book Festival, alive, amazingly, with Elvis Costello glasses and shirt and pants, like was an image straight from the Kennedy sixties. Oddly, he wasn’t a geezer, either, just a older fellow, very close to my own age.He’d just come out with a new Rotten Ralph book and I thought that was it. Then I heard a fan congratulate him on his new YA novel, raving about it in the way that readers often do when confronted with a book author, so I wasn’t terribly sure whether the new book was really worth seeking out. After all, I’d never even checked out any of the Joey Pigza books; I really think I’d forgotten Jack Gantos was even connected with them.And then Dead End in Norvelt wins the Newbery this week. Then it’s a done deal; I read every Newbery.It came in for me at the library yesterday and I immediately started to read. What a yummy book. Hilariously funny in a Richard Peck-ish, A Christmas Story-ish kind of way. You’ve got your main character, a boy Jack Gantos imaginatively names Jack Gantos, living in a town named Norvelt, the town Gantos actually grew up in, in the early sixties, who manages to shoot off a Japanese rifle from WWII and get himself grounded for the entire summer. His parents only give him dispensation to help out an arthritic old lady with her obituary writing for the paper. But this kid somehow, during the course of this summer, meets up with the Hells Angels, a funeral home, murders, digs a bomb shelter, drops water balloons from a vintage plane, gets his blood-dripping nose cauterized, and writes the most incredibly interesting obituaries I’ve ever seen.Crazy-funny.