Dead End in Norvelt...

...This month's book club selection by Jack Gantos.

This winner of the 2012 Newbery Medal for the year's best contribution to children's literature and the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction was a book I had a hard time putting down.  A mixture of fiction and very interesting history, it is a story of a boy, his summer and a series of mysterious deaths in his little Pennsylvania town.
Almost more interesting than the story is the history of Norvelt itself.  This homestead sought to address the needs of unemployed coal miners and their families and was created by the New Deal's Resettlement Administration in 1934 as one of the country's first "subsistence homesteads".  Each family received a 1.6- to 7-acre plot, a house, a garage, a chicken coop, fruit trees and a grape arbor, as well as a stove, refrigerator and farming tools on a rent-to-own basis.  Norvelt had 254 of these homes.

President Roosevelt wanted the homes constructed to minimal standards, without electricity and running water, as befit a relief program, but Mrs. Roosevelt (photo above visiting the town) insisted the program should afford its residents with homes that would elevate their standard of living.  The residents changed the town to Norvelt (the last syllable of Eleanor Roosevelt's name) due to her support.  Man, do I love history!

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