Clearly an Award Winner: Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos

Well, it looks like it’s time for a book review and this one is a about a good one.  As a part of the 2012 YA Audiobook Challenge, I recently finished Dead End in Norvelt, a middle grades novel by Jack Gantos which is the 2012 winner of the Newberry Medal for the best contribution to children’s literature and the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction.  Congrats Mr. Gantos!!

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack GantosMelding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is “grounded for life” by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack’s way once his mom loans him out to help a feisty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launched on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air.

This is my first time reading anything by Jack Gantos, although he has written tons of other things that I was unaware were his books; like the Joey Pigza series.  I received this audiobook from MacMillan Audio (Thank You!!)  and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to author Jack Gantos narrate his fictionalized memoirs.

The picture Gantos paints of Norvelt , a small farming town established by Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1930s, is fabulously sketched.   It seems that small towns always have their fair share of quirky town “characters”, but sometimes the characters’ quirkiness doesn’t always come across the right way.  Well, Gantos doesn’t fail to flesh-out these characters in a way that makes the reader believe that they’re real people.  Real people who you know and love by the end of the story.  My favorite character is the charmingly stubborn and bossy Miss Volker, who hires Jack to help her write obituaries for the local newspaper when her arthritis is too bad.  Miss Volker is charming and crazy  and the warm wax scene where we meet her is absolutely hilarious and I was cracking up in my car while driving home from work.  I love how just as Miss Volker needs Jack to help her with daily tasks, Jack needs her to help him grow up and blossom a bit.

Also, I love the young boy, Jack.  He is your average twelve-year-old boy, wanting to be seen as grown up but still making irresponsible choices and just being a kid.  Jack’s character actually reminds me a lot of Ralphie from the film, A Christmas Story (you know the one with the leg lamp!).  In  A Christmas Story Ralphie is pretty much the king of daydreaming -  it’s very similar to the bookish Jack who has both a lot of smarts and a wildly overactive imagination.

All of the supporting characters are so interesting, humorous and well written.  I feel like I grew up in Norvelt right along the young Jack Gantos and his friends.  The tomboyish Bunny, Jack’s friend and daughter of a funeral home director, is such a good complement to Jack’s more hesitant ways.  And the way in which Jack is often caught between his mother, a life time Norvelter, and father, World War II vet, (and their very different philosophies on life) is both sad and sweet at the same time.

Gantos also weaves small snippets of history through Jack’s reading and love of all things historical or Ms. Volker’s obituaries.  He uses these snippets to help young Jack realize the importance of history. How it’s not just to read it and know it but to use one’s knowledge of the past to prevent one from making the same mistakes again. This history provides and important backdrop to Jack’s journey of maturity.

Once you read Dead End in Norvelt you understand why it is an award winner.  Gantos is clearly an incredibly talent writer specializing in melding the odd with the humorous with regular daily life.  I recommend Dead End in Norvelt to all readers middle grades and up.  Be prepared to laugh!

Author: Jack Gantos

Publisher: Macmillan Young Listeners; Unabridged edition (September 13, 2011)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 7 hrs and 16 mins

Narrator(s): Jack Gantos

Series: Standalone


Buy the Book: Dead End in Norvelt


In My Mailbox (8)

In my mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren with the purpose of helping bloggers get to know each other and to highlight books!

This was was slow in the receiving book department, but not in the totally fun and awesome book related goodies department!

Obviously, the world knows that The Hunger Games movie comes out this coming Friday, March 23 at 12:01 a.m.!!! *squeals with anticipation*

My husband and I have our tickets to the midnight showing and this will be the first midnight showing we’ve ever gone to before!  I’m super excited and can’t stop watching the trailers.


Well, on Thursday the 22nd, I get to host a Hunger Games party in my school’s Media Center!  We have about 65 students attending and are going to be doing some fun activities.  But with that I’ve also had to get a hold of awesome raffle/giveaway prizes for the students.  So, of course I’ve hit up Barnes and Noble and Hot Topic to purchase some fun Hunger Games paraphernalia.

I also  contacted Lionsgate Films and asked for some free movie promotional materials to give to my students, and a few days later got a response saying they’d send some posters.  I expected like maybe two or three posters, so imagine my surprise when I opened the box and found 10 movie posters, a pack of 50 Hunger Games lanyards, and 50 3-D Katniss bookmarks!!  So, a humongous thank you (THANK YOU!!) to Lionsgate Films for sending these to my students!  With all this swag everyone will leave the party with at least one cool Hunger Games item!

Earlier I mentioned that I went shopping for some cool Hunger Games merchandise.  20120317-235642.jpgI got a cool Peeta and Katniss mug and some bookmarks, a mockingjay sweat band bracelet, a Gale key chain and a journal .  I’ll also be getting two movie tickets for one lucky student.  But in the mix of my Hunger Games shopping extravaganza, I had to treat myself to a mockingjay t-shirt.  So I did.


So, no books this week, which is okay because I have so much I already want to read sitting on my To Read Shelf.

What was in your mailbox this week?  I look forward to reading about what fun goodies everyone else received!


Book Trailer of the Week: Born Wicked

Ahhhh!  Sometimes I see a book trailer that just does its job and makes me want to read the book immediately.  This one does it.

I’m a pretty easy target, I must admit.  Book Trailer Makers you need to know that in order to make me want to read your book right away here are the things I need:

1. Historical period costume.  It really doesn’t matter too much which period the costumes are from (as long as it’s not like cavemen times or something like that.  Sorry animal pelts don’t do it for me!), just as long as they’re there.

2. A cute boy.  Again. Yup.  Of course, he has to be dressed correctly (see #1)

Yeah…that’s pretty much all it takes.

Like I said, I’m a pretty easy target.  Don’t judge. Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

So, which book trailer did I just watch (literally 30 seconds ago), that got me so excited to visit the bookstore or library?

That book is Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood.  Its like she can read the inner workings of my mind!  This book trailer made me change my mind from thinking, “Oh that’s just another supernatural fiction book” to “Oh. My. Gosh. I. Must. Read. It.”

Here it is, although I warn those who get weak in the knees from the two things I listed above, you’re going to want to run out and get this one!


Help! What Should I Read Next?

Just looking at my Too Read shelf can be daunting.  There are so many delicious looking books that I want to start.  So many in fact, that I am having a rather difficult time deciding which one I should read first!   So, I’ve decided to let you decide for me.  I’ve narrowed it down to one category and I only have three titles in that category to choose from at the moment.  The category is contemporary romance.  The nominated titles are below.

Catching Jordan By Miranda Kenneally-Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally What girl doesn’t want to be surrounded by gorgeous jocks day in and day out? Jordan Woods isn’t just surrounded by hot guys, though-she leads them as the captain and quarterback of her high school football team. They all see her as one of the guys, and that’s just fine. As long as she gets her athletic scholarship to a powerhouse university. But now there’s a new guy in town who threatens her starting position… suddenly she’s hoping he’ll see her as more than just a teammate.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith-The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?  Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. She’s stuck at JFK, late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s in seat 18C. Hadley’s in 18A.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins-Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins   Budding designer Lola Nolan doesn’t believe in fashion . . . she believes in costume. The more expressive the outfit — more sparkly, more fun, more wild — the better. But even though Lola’s style is outrageous, she’s a devoted daughter and friend with some big plans for the future. And everything is pretty perfect (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the dreaded Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the neighborhood. When Cricket — a gifted inventor — steps out from his twin sister’s shadow and back into Lola’s life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.

So, faithful BookTasty readers, it is time for you to decide which one of the tasty treats above I devour next.  Which ever book has the most votes by Saturday night (lets say 10 ish?)  will be the lucky book I read next!

You can begin voting…….NOW!


Top Ten Tuesday: Contemporary Young Adult Fiction

Happy Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is meme hosted by the wonderful Broke and Bookish!
I feel like I’m constantly talking about the same books over and over again since I am still only a toddler blogger (a little over one year) and my list of books I’ve read still isn’t huge. So, I am going to tweak this week’s theme and make it work for me. Today’s Top Ten is going to start with my top five contemporary Young Adult fiction titles. Then I’ll list five contemporary YA titles that I really want to read. Sound good? Good!

5 Contemporary YA Fiction Titles I Adore

So, with the exception of number 4 and 5, I obviously enjoy some good old fashion contemporary romance (she says as she swoons).

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins1. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen2. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen

The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart3. The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart

In Too Deep by Amanda Grace4. In Too Deep by Amanda Grace

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher5. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

5 Contemporary YA Fiction Titles I Want to Adore but Haven’t Read Yet

These are books that I have heard other readers say amazing things about, but I have not yet had the opportunity to read. I have most of these in my possession, but just haven’t found the time to sit down and read them yet.

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins1. Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen2. The Fine Art of Truth or Dare by Melissa Jensen

Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally3. Catching Jordan by Miranda Kenneally

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jenniger E Smith4. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty5. Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

So there you have it! Please feel free to share some of your favorite contemporary YA (or MG) titles, or those that you want to read but haven’t yet. Thanks for stopping by!


Trust Me, This Book Is Funny: Miracle Wimp by Erik P. Kraft

Well hello there!

I recently read Miracle Wimp by Erik P. Kraft.

Apparently I’m kind of funny, but people hardly ever notice because they don’t normally pay attention to me. Or if they do, it’s the wrong kind of attention, and they’re not going to hear what I have to say because they’re too focused on roughing me up. Do girls like funny? They don’t pay attention to me either. Even if I knew how to approach them, I’d never get my first sentence in before they’d walk away or shut me down. All this comedy gold is going to waste.

Everyone knows high school can be a nightmare, especially if you’re smart or funny. With his best friends by his side, Tom Mayo will navigate the perils of adolescence: atomic wedgies from the Donkeys, Wood Shop with crazy Mr. Boort, awkward first dates, and loathsome first jobs. Miracle Wimp by Erik P. Kraft

On my quest to read more “boy books” I came across Miracle Wimp by Erik P. Kraft, and immediately was drawn to the cover. I love this cover! The bright yellow and blue with hand drawn title is amazingly eye-catching, but not in a retina burning way! Anyway, back to my quest to find more books that will appeal to boys, I’m pretty sure this one is mission accomplished!

The boys at my school tend to be reluctant readers and when they do read they want sports or funny. Well, this one isn’t about sports (other than how bad at them the main character is) but it is incredibly hilarious. There were multiple times when Tom’s story had me cracking up out loud. I seriously cornered my husband on more than one occasion to read aloud a funny part to him. He laughed politely then edged away from me slowly…but that’s only because he had no context for the story. Trust me; this book is funny!

Kraft has definitely written (and illustrated) a high school version of the Wimpy Kid books. The book is told in episodes and has little sketches to go along with every vignette. These illustrations only add to the humor of the story and the short episodes make this book very readable and quick – a must for reluctant readers!

Tom Mayo (Miracle Wimp) is a likable main character. He’s your average goofy teenage boy who isn’t popular but isn’t the nerdiest of the nerds. He is smart and enjoys reading and drawing, but he’s also the funny guy which can sometimes save him in times of potential social danger. Tom is also a teenager who is willing to stand against people who are wrong, which really impressed me about his character (If I said more it’d be a spoiler so I won’t). He’s just a good guy trying to figure life out.

I only have two complaints. The first being the use of the “r” word (r–ard). Now, I acknowledge that it is only in the book once, but that was enough to put a slight damper on the book for me. I hate this word with everything inside of me and I hate the pain this word can stir up inside of people. I understand that the story is from a teenagers’ perspective and teens do use this word (I hear it at least 3x a day at work), but that doesn’t make it right. I believe this would should be deleted from our vocabularies. That said, I still enjoyed this book although I do feel a tinge of disappointment.

I said I had two complaints and the second one is that the story ended too abruptly. Honestly, I checked to see if pages had been ripped out (they hadn’t) and then I went online to see if there was a sequel (there wasn’t). But again, I still enjoyed the book.

Overall, Miracle Wimp will definitely appeal to older teen boys (although I’m a girl, not a teen I enjoyed it too) who are looking for a good laugh. There is some language here and there, so I recommend this one to older teens.

Author: Erik P. Kraft

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (August 1, 2007)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 245 pages

Series: Standalone


Buy the Book: Miracle Wimp


In My Mailbox (7)

Happy Sunday everyone!

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.  This is a fun way for bloggers to get to know each other and network their blogs, and it’s also a good way to showcase some new (or older) titles!

Well, I didn’t get any books in my actual mailbox this week, but I did receive three e-book galleys from NetGalley! Thank you NetGalley!  I can’t wait to get started on these.

Suck it Up and Die by Brian MeehlSuck It Up and Die by Brian Meehl

Whisper by Alyson NoelWhisper by Alyson Noel

Sammy Keyes And The Power of Justice Jack by Wendelin Van DraanenSammy Keyes and the Power of Justice Jack by Wendelin Van Draanen

I also bought some e-books recently because Amazon was having a sale.  Actually bought these a few weeks ago and forgot to mention them here. So, here they are!  I’ve heard awesome stuff about all three so they may move to the top of my “To Read” stack.

Ten Things We Did and Probably Shouldn't Have by Sarah MlynowskiTen Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have) by Sarah Mylnowski

Unearthly by Cynthia HandUnearthly by Cynthia Hand

Entwined by Heather DixonEntwined by Heather Dixon

I am planning a Hunger Games party for my 8th graders on Thursday March 22, so I also bought some bookmarks from the ALA Store to go into the students’ goodie bags!  They’re so fun and I can’t wait for my students to see them-they’re going to be so excited!  ALA Hunger Games bookmarks

What fun stuff did you get in your mailbox this week?



Book Trailer of the Week: Death Cloud

Death Cloud by Andrew LaneThere is always room for a good mystery!  My students are really into mysteries, so Death Cloud by Andrew Lane sounds like one I’ll probably buy for the Media Center.   I haven’t read any of the original Sherlock Holmes stories (although I do plan on it!), but I have always been intrigued by the character and the idea of a teenage take on Holmes sounds interesting.  I’m so going to read this one.

Check out the book trailer to see what a teenage Sherlock was doing before he became famous.