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Dead End in Norvelt (Norvelt Series) Audio CD – Audiobook, CD, Unabridged

4.1 out of 5 stars 214 customer reviews
Book 1 of 2 in the Norvelt Series

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Editorial Reviews


“Gantos captures the voice of a middle-school boy in a relatable way, with plenty of self-consciousness and humor, and he infuses the storyline with a sense of mystery, danger, and adventure…This is an engaging story that makes for compelling listening.” ―Parents Choice Gold Award

“The audiobook was just for fun, since Jack narrated it himself and I'd listen to him read a grocery list, his delivery is that funny.” ―Horn Book Magazine

“Gantos narrates this laugh-out-loud semi-autobiographical tale, providing a pitch-perfect rendition of Jack's sarcasm, exaggeration, and whining.” ―School Library Journal

“Listening to [Jack Gantos] – both his voice and the crazy tales he tells – reminds me a bit of David Sedaris. Fans of his work will likely enjoy this as well. The attitude is the same, too. He doesn't judge, he just tells it as he sees it. The dialogue and the first person reflections make audio an ideal way to experience it.” ―5 Minutes for Books

“Looking for a great audiobook for boys? This is it. Further blurring the line between fact and fiction in this autobiographical novel, author Jack Gantos narrates himself, sharing the 1962 summer adventures of his eponymous hero as he navigates adolescence and a dying town caught between two eras…The story is a little odd and a lot funny. Gantos's delivery is dry and wry, and even when characters don't get distinctive voices, the action and emotion are utterly clear. A gem.” ―AudioFile Magazine

“It is hard to imagine anyone other than Jack Gantos reading Dead End in Norvelt. Like most of his books, this is slightly autobiographical (Gantos was born in Norvelt but did not grow up there). Listeners really hear the intended inflections and accents as well as the energy and emotion found in the story.” ―Library Media Connection

“Dead End in Norvelt, this year's Newberry winner for best young adult fiction, is even more hilarious in audio form as read by author Jack Gantos. My family howled out loud as we listened to it during a spring break drive to California.” ―The Bellingham Herald

“This is a brilliant book, full of history, mystery, and laughs. It reminded me of my small-town childhood, although my small town was never as delightfully weird as Norvelt.” ―Dave Barry

“A bit of autobiography works its way into all of Gantos's work, but he one-ups himself in this wildly entertaining meld of truth and fiction by naming the main character . . . Jackie Gantos.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

“A fast-paced and witty read.” ―School Library Journal

“A more quietly (but still absurdly) funny and insightful account of a kid's growth, kin to Gantos's Jack stories, that will stealthily hook even resistant readers into the lure of history.” ―BCCB

“This winning novel, both humorous and heartwarming, takes place during the summer of 1962, when narrator Jack Gantos turns 12 and spends most of his days grounded. Jack's main ‘get out of jail free card,' and one of the novel's most charming characters, is Miss Volker. The blossoming of their friendship coincides with the blooming of Jack's character.” ―Shelf Awareness Pro

“There's more than laugh-out-loud gothic comedy here. This is a richly layered semi-autobiographical tale, an ode to a time and place, to history and the power of reading.” ―The Horn Book, starred review

“Gantos, as always, delivers bushels of food for thought and plenty of outright guffaws.” ―Booklist

“An exhilarating summer marked by death, gore and fire sparks deep thoughts in a small-town lad not uncoincidentally named ‘Jack Gantos.' The gore is all Jack's, which to his continuing embarrassment ‘would spray out of my nose holes like dragon flames' whenever anything exciting or upsetting happens. And that would be on every other page, seemingly . . . Characteristically provocative gothic comedy, with sublime undertones.” ―Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Nobody can tell a story like Jack Gantos can. And this is a story like no other. It's funny. It's thoughtful. It's history. It's weird. But you don't need me to attempt to describe it. Get in there and start reading Gantos.” ―Jon Scieszka, founder of guysread.com and author of the Spaceheadz series

“The Newbury Medal-winning book has all the ingredients for a great audiobook – a strong narrative voice, a blend of humor and pathos, and a performer who has unique authority: it all happened to him, with some subtle fictionalizations.” ―Book Links

About the Author

Jack Gantos has written books for people of all ages, from picture books and middle-grade fiction to novels for young adults and adults. His works include Hole in My Life, a memoir that won the Michael L. Printz and Robert F. Sibert Honors, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, and Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor book.

Jack was born in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, and grew up in nearby Norvelt. When he was seven, his family moved to Barbados. He attended British schools, where there was much emphasis on reading and writing, and teachers made learning a lot of fun. When the family moved to south Florida, he found his new classmates uninterested in their studies, and his teachers spent most of their time disciplining students. Jack retreated to an abandoned bookmobile (three flat tires and empty of books) parked out behind the sandy ball field, and read for most of the day. The seeds for Jack's writing career were planted in sixth grade, when he read his sister's diary and decided he could write better than she could. He begged his mother for a diary and began to collect anecdotes he overheard at school, mostly from standing outside the teachers' lounge and listening to their lunchtime conversations. Later, he incorporated many of these anecdotes into stories.

While in college, he and an illustrator friend, Nicole Rubel, began working on picture books. After a series of well-deserved rejections, they published their first book, Rotten Ralph, in 1976. It was a success and the beginning of Jack's career as a professional writer. Jack continued to write children's books and began to teach courses in children's book writing and children's literature. He developed the master's degree program in children's book writing at Emerson College and the Vermont College M.F.A. program for children's book writers. He now devotes his time to writing books and educational speaking. He lives with his family in Boston, Massachusetts.


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Product Details

  • Series: Norvelt Series (Book 1)
  • Audio CD: 6 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Young Listeners; Unabridged edition (September 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1427213569
  • ISBN-13: 978-1427213563
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 5.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (214 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,710,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
In the summer of 1962, 12-year-old Jack Gantos is "grounded for life" by his parents. Jack accidentally fired a live bullet from his dad's Japanese sniper's rifle, and got in the middle of a dispute between his parents and disobeyed his mother's orders not to cut down her corn crop. To get out of the house, he agrees to help out his elderly neighbor, Miss Volker, with a special project.

Miss Volker is a former chief nurse and now the medical examiner of the town of Norvelt, a New Deal community established in 1934 to give hardworking people a helping hand. Norvelt is named after former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. At the time of her appointment, Miss Volker promised Mrs. Roosevelt that she would keep health records on the original 250 families.

As the original residents continue to move out or die off, Miss Volker composes their final health reports --- but in this case it's their obituaries. Because her crippling arthritis has rendered her unable to write or type, Jack has been "volunteered" to help out by writing out and typing the obituaries and delivering them to the editor of the Norvelt News. For Miss Volker and many of the residents, the obituaries are more than records of deaths; they are historical narratives of the deceased lives and how they impacted the town of Norvelt.

Norvelt is populated with colorful characters. There's Bunny Huffer, Jack's best friend, who is the daughter of the town's undertaker. Unlike Jack, Bunny isn't squeamish being around dead bodies, and she likes to play pranks. Mr. Edwin Spizz is the town busybody who rides around on an adult tricycle, spying on neighbors and reporting them to the community council. Mr. Spizz also has had his eye on Miss Volker since 1912, but she has no use for him.
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Format: Hardcover
I brought Dead End in Norvelt home the day it won the Newberry, and could barely contain my excitement as I presented it to my 12 year old son, saying "This book won the Newberry Award today, doesn't it look good? I thought you might like to read it!" He gave me one withering glance before saying "Not really...everyone knows Newberry winners are boring." Ouch. So being the book nerd that I am, I read it myself. Initially, I was inclined to agree with my son's snap judgement assessment. It took me quite a while to warm up to young Jack Gantos and his strange little town of Norvelt. Things get off to a pretty slow start as we meet Jack, his family, and a collection of truly odd characters. Those readers who are able to hang in there through the slow parts will most likely come to appreciate Ganto's unique brand of homespun humor, and will be rewarded with a story that takes enough unexpected twists and turns to keep you turning pages long past your bedtime.

Young Jack Gantos is having the world's worst summer. After being grounded for getting in the middle of a fight between his parents, he's destined to spend a summer confined to his room reading history, and helping his dad dig a bomb shelter. It's 1962 and Norvelt is a Roosevelt town filled with aging townspeople, most notably Miss Volker, the official town medical examiner. It's her job to write the obituaries, and since she suffers from arthritis, it's Jack's job to help her. These two make quite the team and their interactions provide a lot of the humor in the book. Add in Jack's dad who is constantly talking about the communist threat, and Jack's mom who believes in communal living and the barter system, and you can see the potential for quite a story.
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Format: Hardcover
What makes Jack Gantos tick? It's a question that haunts every book he writes, from the simplest Rotten Ralph to his own YA autobiography Hole in My Life. It's a talent to write compelling characters, but what if the most compelling character of them all is the author himself? With each Gantos tome I find myself coming back to this question: Why is Jack Gantos the way he is? To be fair, I suspect the man is asking himself the same question at the same time. How else to explain the Jack Henry books like Jack Adrift that cull from the author's life? Or the aforementioned autobiography? Or the fact that Dead End in Norvelt, his latest outing, stars a kid named "Jack Gantos" who lives in a town Jack lived in for a time and experiences many of the things Jack experienced. We're dealing with a book that melds memoir and fiction by turns, managing to drop little tidbits of information that appear to be the seeds of everything from Joey Pigza to The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs. Folks, it's a weird book. No question about that. It may also be one of the finest he's produced in years. Just don't go walking into it with your eyes closed, is all.

1962, Norvelt, PA. It's a town that owes its existence to Eleanor Roosevelt (for whom it is named) and the residence of one young Jack Gantos.
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