November 2013

Jack Gantos and Jack Gantos return

By Jack Gantos
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How do Newbery Medalists follow their award-winning novels? If they’re Jack Gantos, they do it with more over-the-top humor and even crazier adventures. Picking up where Dead End in Norvelt left off, the war hysteria of the Cuban Missile Crisis becomes a big threat to a small town in From Norvelt to Nowhere. Although no longer grounded, young Jack Gantos (yes, still named after the author) remains Miss Volker’s assistant in writing obituaries.

Both mystery and history endure—and occasionally combine—when Miss Volker becomes the last original Norvelter. The town’s other original inhabitant was poisoned in the same fashion as in the first novel, and the town’s namesake, Eleanor Roosevelt, also passes away. When Jack accompanies Miss Volker to Eleanor’s gravesite to aid in writing a fitting obituary, their trip turns to hijinks. Soon the pair is on a course to Florida, hoping to catch Norvelt’s now infamous old-lady killer.

As Jack tries to avoid another one of his nose bleeds and keep Miss Volker from wielding her silver pistol, the latter continues to give the boy history lessons and creates plenty of red herrings along the way.

While the mystery drives the plot, the heart of the story is the intergenerational friendship between Jack and Miss Volker. Only Miss Volker would soak her hands in split-pea soup to restore their sensitivity, and only Jack would understand enough to help her. Hold on tight for another wild ride through the mind of Jack Gantos—both of them.

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