Thursday, February 2, 2012
Audiobook Review: Dead End in Norvert
Appetizer: Set in 1962, little Jack Gantos (a kinda-sorta-fictional character who is prone to nosebleeds) gets himself grounded forever. (It was a bit of a crazy situation, although there were other factors, Jack was following his father's orders to plow down his mother's corn to create a runway for the plane he...obtained.) Practically the only freedom Jack is allowed is to help old Miss Volker, the medical examiner and obituary writer, who roots for the original founders of Norvelt to die. (When Eleanor Roosevelt founded the town she tasked Miss Volker with watching over the residents and now, decades later, Miss Volker is ready to move on.)
Norvelt itself is a very interesting character of a town; a bit of history brought to life that embodies different political and economic views. (For example, Jack's mother favors the barter system, a fact that sometimes embarrasses Jack and his father feels that the town--founded on the principal of putting poor people in a position to help themselves--is a failed Communist experiment.)
Several times throughout the historical novel, Jack talks about the way he engages with books--both fiction and nonfiction--demonstrating the value of both history and literacy. There was one scene in which he and his best friend discuss the way books smell and sniff the gutters of various books. This reminded me of my father, who judges the quality of a book based on the way it smells.
Overall, a very enjoyable book. Some of the plot details threw me for a few loops: The Hell's Angels make a few appearances. The story turns into a murder mystery. That made me ponder a little.
Jack Gantos's--AKA the actual author's--reading of the audiobook was great. He kept the focus on the story (as opposed to some crazy inflections or accents some authors or voice actors use). The story was fun and hilarious--enough so that I chuckled out loud several times. In particular, I'm trying to find a way/reason that I could share the dear hunting chapter with my students. Although I think the book would appeal to both boys and girls, I can't help but think--with the occasional icky detail or bathroom humor--it was written to target boys.
"School was finally out and I was standing on a picnic table in our backyard getting ready for a great summer vacation when my mother walked up to me and ruined it" (p. 3).
"I was a nosebleeder. The moment something startled me or whenever I got over-excited or spooked about any little thing blood would spray out of my nose holes like dragon flames" (p. 8).
"'You're looking at the original Norvelt," she said. "There are two hundred and fifty houses in five sections on this map with the names of the original owners. If you count up the red pins you'll see that all but nine--eight now that Mrs. Slater has passed--of the original owners have died or left since 1934" (p. 35).
"'Miss Volker," I said about as politely as I knew how, "do you think you will outlast the rest of these original people?"
"I have to," she said. "I made a promise to Eleanor Roosevelt to see them to their graves, and I can't drop dead on the job--so let's get going" (p. 36).
Tasty Rating: !!!!