Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Copyright date: 2011
Pages: 252 (hardcover)
Genre: Children’s Historical Fiction – Grades 4 to 8
Format: Audiobook , Read by Jack Gantos, 7 hours
My Rating: A+
Awards Won: 2012 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction and Newberry Medal, 2012
Summary from the publisher:
During the summer of his thirteenth year, Jack Gantos is “grounded for life” by his quarreling parents until his mom loans him to an elderly neighbor for a very odd chore. Miss Volker, the arthritic town medical examiner and obituary writer, needs a typist.The last of the original town residents are dying, and the Volker and Gantos team work overtime to meet the newspaper deadlines. What once seemed like a summer of doom for Jack turns into an adventure involving dead bodies, cooked hands, poisoned rats, a homemade airplane, Hells Angels, a man on a tricycle . . . and possibly murder. Jack, a nosebleeder, spews blood with each anxious moment, but through it all he learns what it takes to be a man.
This is the kind of story I loved as a kid, and even more now. I identified with the young Jack immediately. He was curious and eager to have a fun summer but, on the other hand, he’s very kind to his very interesting elderly neighbor, Miss Vollker. She was quite the character. She cared about Jack although she is frank and rough with him.
The story is set in 1962 in Norvelt, Pennsylvania. The town is a big part of the story. There is still a lot of influence leftover from the Depression and World War II. Eleanor Roosevelt is one of the heroines of the town. (The town was actually named for her: eleaNor – rooseVelt.)
History is another important part of the story. When Miss Vollker writes her obituaries, she also writes “Today In History.” It’s always an interesting story. The author has made learning history fun.
Jack Gantos is the reader on this audiobook. This was a good example of the writer being the best one to read his own story. The story is part serious, part funny and part mystery. Jack Gantos kept me with him all the way to the end. Highly recommended.
About the Award:
In 1982, Scott O’Dell established The Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The annual award of $5,000 goes to an author for a meritorious book published in the previous year for children or young adults. Scott O’Dell established this award to encourage other writers–particularly new authors–to focus on historical fiction. He hoped in this way to increase the interest of young readers in the historical background that has helped to shape their country and their world. (from the website here: Scott O’Dell