The 2012 Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction goes to Jack Gantos for Dead End in Norvelt, published by Farrar Straus Giroux. The award, created by Scott O’Dell and Zena Sutherland in 1982 and now administered by Elizabeth Hall, carries with it a prize of $5000, and goes to the author of a distinguished work of historical fiction for young people, published by a U. S. publisher; and set in South, Central, or North America. The award committee (Ann Carlson, Oak Park-River Forest High School; Deborah Stevenson, The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books; and chair Roger Sutton, The Horn Book) commended Dead End in Norvelt not only for the book’s evocation of 1962 Norvelt, Pennsylvania (a planned farmstead community created in the 1930s and named for its biggest booster, Eleanor Roosevelt) but for its hero, the mischievously named Jack Gantos. Jack’s life and imagination are rich in history: the town’s, as Jack discovers pieces of his local heritage while assisting the newspaper’s obituarist, Miss Volker; and the world’s, with Jack immersed in Landmark biographies and dreams of Atahualpa. In Jack’s own time, the Space Race and the Cold War march on; weighty matters indeed, but here pressed into service for the funniest book the O’Dell Award has yet honored.
Mr. Gantos will be given the award at some time and place later this spring; meanwhile, please join me in congratulating him. (When I spoke to him yesterday, Jack was on the road in Texas, and after a minute of stunned silence he said he was going to celebrate by eating a bunch of snacks. And when I told Elizabeth Hall about the committee’s decision and a bit about Jack, she replied, “sounds like my kind of guy.”)