Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Young Jack Gantos is grounded for the summer. His mom grounded him because he followed his dad’s instructions to mow down the plot of corn. His dad grounded him because he shot off a Japanese riffle that was loaded (even though Jack didn’t load it) and he wasn’t supposed to. Now his only “get out of jail free card” is when his mom loans him to Miss Volker to type the town obituaries that she writes for the newspaper.
I love how there are bits of history thrown in the story. I really like how Miss Volker throws in historical facts in the obituaries that correspond to the days that people died. (Although I really just like Miss Volker.) I found myself laughing over how even though Jack is grounded for the summer (seemingly for life) so much still happened all within the property boundries of an incarcerated kid. And who would have thought that a constantly bleeding nose could be so funny and gross all at the same time? Or that a girl who’s dad owns a funeral parlor could properly describe things like sewing up mouths on dead bodies in such a way that a boy would feel faint? This is a funny tale in a quirky town.
Ideas for activities to go along with this book:
Have kids write obituaries (famous people, houses, animals). Find three interesting historical facts that correspond to a specific date. Norvelt was designed and built all at once. Design your perfect town.

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