Dead End in Norvelt

Norvelt Series (Volume 1)

Jack Gantos; Read by the author

Macmillan Young Listeners

  • Newbery Medal Winner

  • Buy it now
Dead End in Norvelt is the winner of the 2012 Newbery Medal for the year's best contribution to children's literature and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction!
Melding 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 fiesty 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.


Read an Excerpt

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. I was holding a pair of camouflage Japanese WWII binoculars to my eyes and focusing across her newly planted vegetable garden, and her cornfield, and over ancient Miss Volker’s roof, and then up the Norvelt road, and past the brick bell tower on my school, and beyond the Community Center, and the tall silver whistle on top of the volunteer fire department to the most distant dark blue hill, which is where



  • Dead End in Norvelt Book Trailer

    Has Jack's summer hit a dead end?

  • Author Jack Gantos talks about his book Dead End in Norvelt

    Bestselling young adult author Jack Gantos discusses his book, Dead End in Norvelt, reading audio books and other favorite topics.

  • Jack Gantos Talks Audiobooks

    Bestselling YA author Jack Gantos talks about audiobooks and the challenges of reading his book Dead End in Norvelt aloud.

  • Jack Gantos thanks 2012 Newbery Committee

    Jack Gantos thanks the 2012 Newbery Committee for selecting DEAD END IN NORVELT as the winner!

  • Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to Jack Gantos read from his Newbery Medal-winning children's book Dead End in Norvelt in this audiobook excerpt. Melding 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.



Praise for Dead End in Norvelt

Praise for the audiobook edition of Dead End in Norvelt:

“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

Praise for the Print edition of Dead End in Norvelt:


“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


In the Press

DEAD END IN NORVELT by Jack GantosKirkus Book Reviews
Read the Kirkus Review of DEAD END IN NORVELT . An exhilarating summer marked by death, gore and fire sparks deep thoughts in a small-town lad not uncoincidentally named "Jack Gantos."
- Kirkus Reviews

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Jack Gantos; Read by 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.
  • Jack Gantos
    Jack Gantos



Teacher's Guide


Available Formats and Book Details

Dead End in Norvelt

Norvelt Series

Jack Gantos; Read by the author

American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults, American Library Association Notable Children's Books, NCTE Notable Child. Bks in Lang. A, Newbery Medal Winner, Junior Library Guild Selection, Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction Winner, Kiddo Award Nominee, Maine Student Book Award Master List, Capitol Choices Noteworthy Titles for Children and Teens, Washington Post Best Books of the Year, Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year, Horn Book Magazine Fanfare List, Kirkus Reviews Best Books of the Year