Dead End in Norvelt

Dead End in Norvelt

Book Category: Newbery Winner
Author: Jack Gantos
Copyright: (2011) New York, NY
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
Summary: This book is about a small town in Pennsylvania called Norvelt and a young, mischievous boy named Jack who lives there with his parents. Although Jack is supposed to be grounded for the summer due to not obeying his mother’s orders, he still finds a way to cause trouble and escape his house on a daily basis. His love for airplanes, baseball, history, and writing obituaries for the people of Norvelt is displayed throughout the book as he continues to find ways to disobey his parents and do what he pleases. As the original veterans of Norvelt continue to die out week after week, Jack has to soon make the decision to either stay out of trouble or contribute in saving the rest of the original town of Norvelt.
Suggested Grade Level: 5
Lexile Level: 830L
Accelerated Reader: 5.9
Suggested Delivery: Independent Read
Common Core State Standard: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.6.1: Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
5 Key Words to Describe the Book: Humorous, Historical, Ironic, Family-Oriented, Community
Electronic Resources:
  1. This website provides a detailed summary of the book, a biography of the author, where one could buy the book, and reviews from people who have previously read the book:
  2. This website provides a summary of the book, all of the bibliographic information on the book, and where one could read the book electronically:
  3. This website provides a video of an interview with the author, Jack Gantos. The video provides information about the author as well as information about the book. It is a great video to watch before reading the book to get a gist of what the book is about and why Jack Gantos chose to write it:
Key Vocabulary:
  • Mischievous: causing or intending to cause harm or trouble
  • Poverty: the state of being extremely poor
  • Obituary: a news article that reports the recent death of a person, typically along with an account of the person’s life
  • Authority: the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience
  • Cadaver: a corpse; a dead body
  • J-3: a light American aircraft that was built between 1937 and 1947 by Piper Aircraft
Teaching Suggestions:
  1. Before, During, After-
  • Before: Students will brainstorm the kind of information that they think is normally featured in an obituary. Read aloud the obituary of a house that Miss Volker writes for the Norvelt News. Have students write an obituary of an old toy and encourage them to include personal information and possibly make it humorous  but appropriate.
  • During: Students should jot down unfamiliar words and try to define the words using context clues. If using context clues does not work, then students should be encouraged to others text resources, such as a dictionary.
  • After: Provide students with the opportunity to look at interviews and conversations with the author, Jack Gantos. This will enable them to learn more about the author and why he chose to write this book. It may also persuade them to look at other pieces of literature written by Jack Gantos.
  1. Writing Activity- Jack’s favorite part of the newspaper is the “This Day in History” column. Ask each student to pick a date in July or August and research different historical events that happened on that day. Then have them write a new “This Day in History” column that Jack might write for the Norvelt News.
Teacher’s Guide:

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