Dead End in Norvelt

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Dead End in Norvelt
Dead End in Norvelt cover.jpg
First edition
AuthorJack Gantos
CountryUnited States
GenreChildren's historical novel, autobiographical novel, mystery, comedy, political economy
PublisherFarrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date
September 13, 2011
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Pages341 pp
LC ClassPZ7.G15334 Dd 2011[1]

Dead End in Norvelt is an autobiographical novel by the American author Jack Gantos, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux in 2011. It features a boy named Jack Gantos and is based in the author's hometown, Norvelt, Pennsylvania. According to one reviewer, the "real hero" is "his home town and its values", a "defiantly political" message.[2]

The American Library Association awarded Gantos and Dead End the 2012 Newbery Medal, honoring the book as the year's "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children".[3][4] It also won the annual Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction.[5] In Britain, where it was published by the Transworld Publishers imprint Corgi Books, it was one of eight books on the longlist for the annual Guardian Children's Fiction Prize.[6]

Newbery judges called the book "achingly funny"[4] and one British reviewer called it "rib-splitting".[7]


Dead End takes place during the summer after the American schoolboy Jack Gantos fires his father's war trophy, a Japanese sniper rifle thinking it is unloaded, but a bullet somehow flies out. As punishment, he must stay in the house except as sent by his mother to help their elderly neighbor Miss Volker whom, upon Jack's arrival, boils her hands in water and bites off the blisters, which results in Jack getting a nosebleed. Aside from that, Miss Volker also writes obituaries for the town newspaper. He notices that elderly, "original Norvelters" are dying away relatively fast. Later, a Hells Angel gang member is hit by a semi truck while crazily dancing a three-mile stretch, and the rest of the Hells Angel gang begins to light houses on fire. Even later, Jack's dad acquires a Piper J-3 Cub, and assigns Jack to dig an underground bomb shelter as his dad builds a runway for the plane, and Jack gets a car from Miss Volker as a birthday present. As Jack thinks about the strange rate of deaths in original Norvelters, he realizes that thin mint Girl Scout cookies may have something to do with it because many people in town are eating them. Soon, Miss Volker is placed under house arrest when the police find poisoned chocolates in her basement and accuse her of feeding them to the old Norvelters. While visiting her, Miss Volker says that a man named Mr. Spizz admitted to killing the Norvelters, and that Mr. Spizz stole Jack's car to get a six-hour headstart on police.


In the book Dead End In Norvelt, people use power to control others. The Newbery Medal judges, who are American children's librarians, cited the importance of history and reading.[4] The Guardian Prize judges, who are British children's novelists, cited "self-sufficiency, community, and neighbourliness".[6]

One reviewer of Dead End, children's writer Josh Lacey, called it "defiantly political"; one of its messages is "don't forget the narratives of American life that have been neglected or deliberately buried by the dominant culture." "[T]he real hero of the novel isn't Jack himself, but his home town and its values. Norvelt was a New Deal town built by the US government to house poor families and named after Eleanor Roosevelt, described by Miss Volker as 'the greatest American woman who has ever lived'."[2]


Another Irish reviewer suggested that "every Elder will be able to relate to Jack's character" and recommended the book for readers age 9 to 13.[7] The Guardian Prize judges recommended it for ages 12 and up.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gantos, Jack (2011). "Dead end in Norvelt". Farrar Straus Giroux. Retrieved 2017-10-29.
  2. ^ a b Josh Lacey. "Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos - review: A defiantly political tale". The Guardian, June 29, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-27.
  3. ^ "2012 ALSC book and media award winners". Association for Library Service to Children. Retrieved 2012-01-24.
  4. ^ a b c Alison Flood. "'Screwball mystery' by Jack Gantos wins oldest children's books prize"., January 23, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-27.
  5. ^ Roger Sutton (January 17, 2012). "2012 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction". The Horn Book. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  6. ^ a b c "Discover the Guardian children's fiction prize 2012 longlist - gallery"., June 8, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-27.
  7. ^ a b Krazy Kesh. "Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos - review: every child will be able to relate to Jack's character". Krazy Kesh., May 13, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-27.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Moon Over Manifest
Newbery Medal recipient
Succeeded by
The One and Only Ivan