Listening to the audiobook on my phone, thanks to Overdrive via the Memphis Library
Jack Gantos is a fantastic narrator - both as a character in the story, and for the audiobook! His audible and written voice brings the past to life, inviting us to explore small town life in the summer of 1962. He gets into a lot of trouble because he loves reading - and reenacting! - history, instead of focusing on the present.
This book is a fun mix of crazy fictional adventures and genuine history. It will probably be hard for children to tell what is true and what isn’t, because it was hard for me! But it is a fun, engaging story, and you learn history without realizing it. Gantos gives just enough information to draw the reader in, but stops short of making it seem like a history lesson. Since it’s such an easy, light-hearted book (despite all the blood!), readers will more than likely be curious enough about the history mentioned to research on their own!
There’s something about a small town that seems timeless, and Norvelt, Pennsylvania is a small town. It’s great to hear how young Jack goes from driving a tractor, to driving a car, to decently driving a car in such a short span - only in a small town! Learning about how Norvelt was founded, and what values it was founded on, helps readers better envision the town, the citizens that inhabit it, and the era when all of this occurred.
A boy getting in enough trouble to be “grounded for life” is the most timeless theme I can think of! Jack’s curiosity about history and the world around around him will certainly inspire contemporary readers to explore their own lives for story, and will more than likely inspire some historical research along the way.
This is a fun read, and it only helped things seem more cheerful (even with all the death!) to have the author reading it himself. The story was told the way you would share life stories with friends and family, and hearing the author use timely slang like “cheese-us-crust” only makes the audiobook experience more enjoyable.