From Norvelt to Nowhere

Jack Gantos. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-0-374-37994-0
Gantos’s sequel to his Newbery-winning Dead End in Norvelt offers less history, more murder, and another hefty helping of zaniness. An explosion shuts school for repairs, leaving Jackie, 12, free to accompany Miss Volker to Hyde Park, N.Y., to pay last respects to Norvelt’s recently deceased founder, Eleanor Roosevelt. Death (and a detective) seem to shadow Jackie around every bend: Mr. Spizz, the murder suspect from Dead End in Norvelt, is still at large when a new victim dies, and the travelers head to Florida when Miss Volker learns her twin sister has expired (she suspects foul play). During their road trip, Jackie reads Classics Illustrated comics that his mother has forbidden. “Those,” she tells him, “are what cheaters and idiots read.” But Miss Volker uses Jackie’s reading as a springboard to examine the life she’s lived, confessing her own Jekyll and Hyde personality and drawing a hilarious analogy between herself and Spizz to Ahab and his whale. The anxieties of the Cold War recede, overshadowed by these two larger-than-life characters bent on bringing a murderer to justice in the kookiest way possible. Ages 10–14. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 08/12/2013
Release date: 09/24/2013
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