Saturday, June 30, 2012

Kid Konnection


Every Saturday, Booking Mama hosts a feature called  Kid Konnection, where she features anything related to  children's books.  I thought I'd pop in today while this book is still in my head.






I picked this up last week and was really excited to read it.  It has been a while since I've read a Newberry Award book  (I discovered I haven't read  the past 4 years winners), and I always find them an interesting read.

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, is  also an interesting read .... I just can't say it was one of the better Newberry books. 
While I enjoyed it, I was a bit confused by it.   Jack  Gantos is the author and also the main character.   I  didn't know if it was an autobiographical  book or what.
After a bit of investigation,  I've discovered that Mr. Gantos has written a lot of children's literature and won many awards, and he uses himself and his years of growing up as inspiration,  tho they are  not necissarily biographies.  (Which is good, because they are quite quirky)  He does say he takes a story from his life and adds to it,  embellishes it and fictionalizes it.
The town, Norvelt, PA,  in Dead End in Norvelt, is a real town.  The town upheld the principles of  neighbor helping neighbor,  which were installed by Eleanor Roosevelt.  This is a main theme throughout the book,  a utopia type of town.   Jack  Gantos the real person as well as the character in the book, really did have horrible nose bleeds growing up. 
So, while many things are true, they are embellished upon.

Dead End in Norvelt had a lot of 'boy humor', which I think my boys would have liked when they were younger, and my  10-year old grandson would like now.  I can see the appeal.
Jack Gantos, the character in the book,  is grounded for life and has to pass his summer helping an elderly neighbor write obituaries, which his quirky neighbor also peppers with historical facts.
Okay...I love  history, so I enjoyed this part of the book.  The history quotes/facts/stories  were just enticing enough for a young boy to get ---interested.   There are some gory historical facts in the book, but done so in a way that any pre-teen boy would love.  I remember one time my middle son was fascinated by a dead cat he found in the street.  He and his friends stared at it and poked at it for a good hour before a neighbor came with a shovel to bury the poor thing.  But boys just are fascinated by gore---as long as it doesn't effect them.  I think the history stories that Gantos puts into his book are just titllating enough to hook most pre-teen boys.

There are some inconsistancies in the book.  One minor character is selling Girl Scout cookies to 'make money for her family",  and most of us know that the money goes to the GSA.   But I think a few things like that can be overlooked. 

I would say it's a good book, not a great book,   but while trying to find out more about Jack Gantos I came across a couple of interviews and videos and I think HE is a real interesting person.
This is from his website:
His greatest wish in life is to replace trailer parks with bookmobile parks, which he thinks will eliminate most of the targets for tornadoes and educate an entire generation of great kids who now go to schools that are underfunded and substandard.
check out his site here.
Reading Rockets did a great video interview with him.

He's a really interesting person, and while I didn't love this book, I liked it very much.  You should check out the videos, because for some reason I can't get a Youtube video embedded today.  But you'll see how quirky and interesting he is.
In the final paragraph of the book Gantos writes:
On the morning of August 17, Jack Gantos was released from being grounded by his parents. But stay tuned because on   August 18, he might be grounded all over again--unless he remembers his history!

Isn't that what we are taught?   Unless we remember history we are doomed to repeat it?
He beleives if you know your sense of history, you can know where you are headed.

From Goodreads:
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 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.

2 comments:

bermudaonion said...

It's interesting that won a Newbery because I would imagine it would confuse kids too. Maybe they don't take things as literally as adults do.

Julie P. said...

I'm not familiar with this book at all but I admit that I'm fascinated by it! Need to check it out!

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