I often wonder about the Newbery committee and if they select the winners because they think the books are great or if they think they are books kids should read. I don’t think a lot of the Newbery winners are books kids will want to read. That doesn’t mean they are horrible books, it just means they don’t have a lot of appeal to the demographic they are supposed to be written for. I think Dead End in Norvelt falls into that category. It isn’t a bad book; I just don’t think it is the best book written for children in the past year. And frankly I don’t think it is going to really appeal to that many pleasure readers.
Dead End in Norvelt is the story of Jack Gantos (yes it is semi-autobiographical) and how he spent his summer. It is full of tales of dead old ladies and writing their obituaries with Mrs. Volker, digging a bomb shelter with dad, getting in trouble with mom, Hells Angels, and nose bleeds. Their is a lot of crazy stuff going on in the town of Norvelt (founded and named for Eleanor Roosevelt) and Jack is in the middle of it all.