Review: From Norvelt to Nowhere by Jack Gantos

from norvelt to nowhere

From Norvelt to Nowhere by Jack Gantos

Halloween has come to Norvelt right at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Jack dresses up as the local serial killer to trick or treat, but no one finds him funny.  Even Jack loses his sense of humor when another old lady is killed right in front of him from a poisoned cookie.  Miss Volker, the last surviving original Norvelt woman, takes the murder very personally since the serial killer had been killing in order to marry her.  She is intent on revenge and takes Jack along with her on a cross-country journey to settle the issue once and for all.  But all may not be as simple as it seems as Jack finds himself with plenty of potential killers riding on the same train with them. 

Gantos won the Newbery Medal with the first Norvelt book and it was spectacular.  This book is more of a bumpy ride.  There are moments where Gantos reaches the same smart mix of serious heartfelt writing and humorous situations.  Then it can drag a bit as historical lessons are shared.  But the good thing is that those good parts outnumber the slowdowns and the humor still shines.

A large part of what makes the book work are the characters of Jack and Miss Volker.  This wonderful pairing adds to the fast pacing of the novel, move the story forward and are a pleasure to spend time with.  The book tends to slow when Miss Volker is more quiet and contained.  When she is unleashed, the story is exceptional. 

Fans of the first book will want to read the second and I’m happy to travel along with Jack and Miss Volker anytime.  Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Review: Night Sounds by Javier Sobrino

night sounds

Night Sounds by Javier Sobrino, illustrated by Emilio Urberuaga

When the animals of the rain forest head to sleep, they are awakened by noises coming from a box.  The sound just goes on and on, “Wuaah, wuaah, wuaaah.”  Something is crying and won’t be easily comforted.  The animals do try to get it to be quiet, offering a blanket, water, and a doll.  But the crying only stops for a little while and then starts up again and again.  Finally Tiger heads off to find the mother.  Then the identity of the crier is revealed finally but there is more crying to come in a clever twist at the end.

Translated from the original Spanish, Sobrino does a great job of keeping readers guessing about the identity of who is crying in the box.  As each new sets of cries starts, their sounds change slightly and add variety to the book.  The structure of the book is based on repetition with some changes along the way.  It makes for a book that will work well for very small children but also has plenty of surprises for older preschoolers as well.

Urberuaga’s illustrations are filled with deep, rich colors.  They evoke the night beautifully and the animals sleepy eyes and lack of smiles show how very tired they are.  The reveal is cleverly done without any real visual hints, allowing it to be a complete surprise.

Great fun, this book could be made into reader’s theater with younger children and will also make a great bedtime story as long as a blanket, water and doll are provided ahead of time.  Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

This Week’s Tweets and Pins

Here are the links I shared on my Twitter and Pinterest accounts this week that I hope you find interesting:



The Art of Read Every Day Lead a Better Life #kidlit #art

Banned Books Week: 8 Classic Children’s Books and Why They Were Banned |  Reading Rainbow Blog #kidlit

Board Book Roundup: Fall 2013 Edition – The Horn Book #kidlit

Book Trade Announcements – Judges Announced For 2013 Costa Book Awards #kidlit

Cybils: Let the Wild Nominations Begin! #kidlit #yalit

Lynne Truss on returning to childhood classics – Telegraph #kidlit

Makin’ a List… of December Holiday Books | October 2013 | School Library Journal #kidlit

NYPL Unveils 100 Top Children’s Books of the Last 100 Years | School Library Journal #kidlit

Opinion: Kids’ books are the stuff of magic #kidlit


The Abomination of Ebooks: They Price People Out of Reading | Wired Opinion #ebooks

Digital warming: Sherman Alexie, e-book detractor, OKs 7 more books to come out electronically | 570News #ebooks

Download Free Ebooks, Legally » 29 Sites That Monitor Amazon For Free Kindle eBooks #ebooks #amazon

Scribd, HarperCollins Launch $8.99 Subscription Book Service | Fast Company | Business + Innovation #ebooks


25 Libraries We Most Love on Pinterest #libraries

Board calls for closing south branch library #libraries

DC Mayor Declares Libraries “Essential,” Will Stay Open If Government Shuts Down #libraries

Delivering the Library #libraries

The Library of Congress Really Really Does Not Want To Give You Your Data – Sunlight Foundation Blog

Paperless Libraries | American Libraries Magazine #libraries



10 Awesome Secret Passage Bookshelves

More than half of American adults read books for pleasure in 2012 #reading


5 Signs You Are Reading Too Much YA #yalit

14 Badass Banned Books Trading Cards #yalit #libraries

Fascinating Mug Shots Of Characters From Banned Books (IMAGES) #yalit

Katie Holmes Joins ‘The Giver,’ And So Does … Taylor Swift? #yalit

Laini Taylor to release new ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ novella | Shelf Life #yalit

What’s Terrifying Teens In Today’s YA Novels? The Economy. Poverty Echoes In Young Adult Fiction : NPR #yalit