Thursday, February 23, 2012

Dead End in Norvelt

Dead End in Norvelt
Jack Gantos
Farrar Straus Giroux
Newbery Medal

Dead End in Norvelt is one of those Newbery winners that reminds me that a committee chooses these books: a committee of ordinary folks like us (perhaps with a bit more experience in children's literature and library-related tasks),but folks nonetheless who have their own opinions and tastes in books. I'm glad we have committees choosing these winners because I wouldn't want it to come down to one person.

That being said, Dead End is not really my fave. I appreciate it, but I don't know that I would have chosen it. I completely agree with Brandy's stylistic analysis of this book and appreciate Redeemed Reader's insights into the socialist bent of one of the characters. I found it a touch long for the target audience (upper elementary/middle school). Gantos is nothing if not funny, and this book certainly made me smile. The ending was a little abrupt for me, but I enjoyed the ride there for the most part. If you're a history buff, this book will be right up your alley. The short version of the plot is this: Set in the 1960s, young, fictional Jack Gantos (who has spastic nosebleeds), is grounded all summer, escaping only to write obituaries for a quirky old lady named Miss Volker (through which process he learns a lot of history and a lot about socialism and a lot about the lighter side of death).

cover image from goodreads, book checked out from library

Things to Note/Discuss:
  • what should our attitude toward death be? How should we react to news of someone's death?
  • what are the principles of socialism that come through in this book? Do you agree with Miss Volker's sentiments?
  • What do you know of Eleanor Roosevelt and her part in helping folks get back on their feet after the Depression?

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