Books by Jack Gantos

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From Norvelt to Nowhere (Read an excerpt now!)

This rocket-paced follow-up to the Newbery Medal–winning novel Dead End in Norvelt opens deep in the shadow of the Cuban missile crisis. But instead of Russian warheads, other kinds of trouble are raining down on young Jack Gantos and his utopian town of Norvelt in western Pennsylvania. After an explosion, a new crime by an old murderer, and the sad passing of the town’s founder, twelve-year-old Jack will soon find himself launched on a mission that takes him hundreds of miles away, escorting his slightly mental elderly mentor, Miss Volker, on her relentless pursuit of the oddest of outlaws. But as their trip turns south in more ways than one, it’s increasingly clear that the farther from home they travel, the more off-the-wall Jack and Miss Volker’s adventure becomes, in From Norvelt to Nowhere, a raucous road novel about roots and revenge, a last chance at love, and the power of a remarkable friendship.

Dead End in Norvelt
Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is the story of an incredible two months for a boy named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation adventure are suddenly ruined when he is grounded by his feuding parents for what seems like forever. But escape comes where Jack least expects it, once he begins helping an elderly neighbor with a most unusual chore—a chore involving the newly dead, molten wax, twisted promises, Girl Scout cookies, underage driving, lessons from history, obituaries, Hells Angels, and countless bloody noses. Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers crack up at the most shocking things in a depiction of growing up in an off-kilter world where the characters are as unpredictable and over-the-top as they come.


The Joey Pigza Series:

  • Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key
    Joey Pigza can’t sit still. He can’t pay attention. He can’t follow the rules. And he can’t help it! He just does whatever pops into his head. Even if it’s swallowing a key. If he keeps messing up, he’s going to be sent to a special-ed center for “problem” children. He knows he’s a good kid; he’s just got dud meds. But can he get anyone else to believe that?
  • Joey Pigza Loses Control
    Joey Pigza has always been wired. He couldn’t sit still. He couldn’t behave. He was always getting in trouble. Until he got the right meds. He’s just met his dad for the first time in years, and now he knows where he gets it. His dad’s wired, too. And he says he wants to teach Joey to be a winner, to take control. But Joey’s not so sure. Because it means going off his medication . . .
  • What Would Joey Pigza Do?
    Joey’s dad keeps circling their house on his motorcycle. Joey’s mom chases him with a broom, when she’s not with her new boyfriend. Joey’s grandmother says she’ll haunt Joey when she dies if he doesn’t find a friend. How did Joey end up being the normal one in his family? Clearly it’s up to him to keep his mom and dad from killing each other. But finding a friend? He’s in homeschool with only one other kid. The meanest girl he’s ever met. Still, the Pigza family may be crazy, but they never back down from a challenge.
  • I Am Not Joey Pigza
    Joey’s dad is back and he’s handing out hundred dollar bills. He’s also changed his name from Carter Pigza to Charles Heinz. Joey’s mom thinks it’s perfectly normal because she used to be Fran and now she’s Maria. Now Charles and Maria are calling Joey a new name, too. Freddy. And it turns out they were never divorced. They’re even renewing their vows. And the whole family is going to run a diner together. Should Joey’s parents really be the ones making all the decisions around here?

The Jack Henry Adventures:

  • Jack Adrift: Fourth Grade Without a Clue
    As the Henry family sets sail for a new life on Cape Hatteras, fourth-grader Jack is struggling to chart a course between his parents’ contradictory advice on making friends and influencing people. Just tell people what they want to hear, Dad advises. Just tell the truth, Mom cautions. Jack finds there are no easy answers as he drifts through his crazy school year, falling desperately in love with his young teacher, getting suckered into becoming a bad-behavior spy for the principal, and being forced to make a presentable pet out of a duck with backward feet. Indeed, with an airheaded, air-guitar-playing neighbor the closest thing to a friend, and a judgmental older sister his relentless enemy, it’s all he can do to stay afloat.
  • Jack on the Tracks: Four Seasons of Fifth Grade
    Inspired by the author’s childhood diaries, this hilarious collection of nine stories depicts a fifth-grade year to end all fifth-grade years. Living in a Miami rental home with a busy railroad track running a stone’s throw from the backyard, the author’s alter ego is plagued by a know-it-all older sister, a bizarre Francophile teacher, a series of crazed cats, a slightly off-kilter father, a tapeworm, and a pair of escaped convicts—to name just a few of his antagonists.
  • Heads or Tails: Stories from the Sixth Grade
    Jack’s life is a crazy roller-coaster ride. At his fifth school in six years, he has a crackpot teacher who won’t give him a break about his lousy handwriting and a secret crush who wants to be a policewoman. At home, he has a pesky little brother with a knack for getting hurt whenever Jack’s supposed to be looking after him, a terror for an older sister who mocks his belief in UFOs, all sorts of weird neighbors, and, last but not least, ferocious alligators in the canal behind his house. Writing in his diary about his good days and bad days is one way Jack survives his up-and-down year. But he’s also a kid who knows that life can go any which way at any given moment. He might as well flip a coin: heads he wins, tails he loses. What will turn up next?
  • Jack’s New Power: Stories from a Caribbean Year
    It is the summer after sixth grade and Jack and his offbeat family have relocated to Barbados. But even in a tropical paradise, Jack is plagued by misadventure. He gets a violent case of blood poisoning (after chasing a headless chicken), discovers the perils of male bonding (in a pepper-eating contest with his father), and has his heartstrings twanged by an older woman (his sister’s best friend)—to name just a few of his trials and tribulations in these eight fierce and funny stories.
  • Jack’s Black Book
    According to his new motto—A WRITER’S JOB IS TO TURN HIS WORST EXPERIENCES INTO MONEY—Jack Henry is going to be filthy rich even before he gets out of junior high, for his life is filled with the worst experiences imaginable. In the course of the few months covered in this cycle of interlinked stories, Jack is humiliated by a gorgeous synchronized swimmer, gets a tattoo the size of an ant on his big toe, flubs an IQ test and nearly fails wood shop, and has to dig up his dead dog not once but twice. And that’s not the half of it. Jack may not end up rolling in dough, but he, along with his humorously off-kilter family, always keeps on trying.

The Rotten Ralph Rotten Readers:

  • Rotten Ralph Helps Out
    Sarah needs a topic for her school project on ancient Egypt. Her rotten red cat, Ralph, thinks history is a bore. Only after he spoils a research trip to the library does Ralph decide to help. According to Sarah, the ancient Egyptians believed cats were wise and had special powers. And Rotten Ralph knows he can prove them right!
  • Practice Makes Perfect for Rotten Ralph
    It’s carnival time for Ralph, Sarah, and Percy, Ralph’s cousin Ralph is ready to play games and win prizes. But perfect Percy has been practicing. He keeps beating Ralph and wooing Sarah with his winnings. Fed up with losing, Ralph decides to cheat his way to victory . . . until Sarah puts a stop to it.
  • Rotten Ralph Feels Rotten
    When Sarah serves up a healthy, home-cooked meal chock-full of fruits and vegetables, Rotten Ralph turns up his nose and refuses to eat. With those overflowing, back-alley trash cans in mind, he has more exciting dinner plans on his menu. Garbage for dinner? Uh-oh! Rotten Ralph’s bad eating habits are about to make him feel rotten for real.
  • Best in Show for Rotten Ralph
    The cat show is coming to town and Rotten Ralph is hungry for glory—and desperate to defeat his perfect cousin Percy, whatever it takes. According to Sarah, Ralph has to stop being a lazy scoundrel and follow her regimen to achieve poise and polish. When the competition gets under way, Ralph pretends to be something he’s not, and fails. Just in time, Ralph decides victory can be his only if he stops pretending and really lets the fur fly.
  • Three Strikes for Rotten RalphThree Strikes for Rotten Ralph
    Before he tries out for the new Fighting Squirrels baseball team, Rotten Ralph is sure he is going to be a superstar. Never mind that he doesn’t have any skills and doesn’t want to practice. While his owner, Sarah, is doing everything she can to make the team, she tries to help Ralph do his best, too. But with his imagination running wild, Ralph’s worst is what comes out.
  • Rotten Ralph's Rotten FamilyRotten Ralph’s Rotten Family
    Rotten Ralph’s owner, Sarah, is fed up with her red rascal’s behavior. Ralph is tired of Sarah trying to change him. He misses his cat family, which never made him alter a thing about himself. But in this gag- and guffaw-filled adventure for newly independent readers, the world’s favorite rotten red cat gets tripped up when he runs away for a journey down memory lane.

The Rotten Ralph Picture Books:

  • Rotten RalphRotten Ralph After all sorts of bad behavior, Sarah’s rotten red cat is forced to join a circus and finally sees the error of his ways. Or does he?
  • Worse Than Rotten, RalphWorse Than Rotten, Ralph Rotten Ralph makes an earnest attempt at good behavior but is enticed, not too reluctantly, into a series of misadventures by some ruffian alley cats.
  • Rotten Ralph’s Rotten ChristmasRotten Ralph’s Rotten Christmas Ralph’s cousin “Perfect” Percy is coming—and so is Santa—but Rotten Ralph is not at all nice to his Christmas visitor.
  • Rotten Ralph’s Trick or Treat!Rotten Ralph’s Trick or Treat! Sarah’s rotten cat, Ralph, goes to a Halloween costume party disguised as Sarah and creates horrible mischief.
  • Rotten Ralph’s Show and TellRotten Ralph’s Show and Tell Ralph upstages Sarah’s show-and-tell presentation at school with cat-astrophic consequences.
  • Happy Birthday Rotten RalphHappy Birthday Rotten Ralph Rotten Ralph is even rotten on his birthday, finally forcing poor Sarah to take drastic measures.
  • Not So Rotten RalphNot So Rotten Ralph Up to his usual rotten antics—spraying whipped cream all over the kitchen and jumping out of the mailbox—Rotten Ralph gets sent to Feline Finishing School.
  • Rotten Ralph’s Rotten RomanceRotten Ralph’s Rotten Romance While Sarah is very excited to take her rotten cat to a Valentine’s Day Party, Ralph will do almost anything to avoid the party and drippy Valentine kisses!
  • Back to School for Rotten RalphBack to School for Rotten Ralph Sarah can’t wait to start school and make some new friends other than her rotten cat, but Ralph wants to be Sarah’s only friend and he won’t be left behind.
  • The Nine Lives of Rotten RalphThe Nine Lives of Rotten Ralph Thanks to his rotten behavior, Ralph is down to the very last of his nine lives. Sarah is fiercely determined to keep her cat safe, but how much coddling can Ralph take before he has to do something totally and utterly rotten?

For Older Readers:

  • Hole In My LifeHole In My Life
    In the summer of 1971, Jack Gantos was an aspiring writer looking for adventure, cash for college tuition, and a way out of a dead-end job. For ten thousand dollars, he recklessly agreed to help sail a sixty-foot yacht loaded with a ton of hashish from the Virgin Islands to New York City, where he and his partners sold the drug until federal agents caught up with them. For his part in the conspiracy, Gantos was sentenced to serve up to six years in prison. In Hole in My Life, this prizewinning author of over thirty books for young people confronts the period of struggle and confinement that marked the end of his own youth. On the surface, the narrative tumbles from one crazed moment to the next as Gantos pieces together the story of his restless final year of high school, his short-lived career as a criminal, and his time in prison. But running just beneath the action is the story of how Gantos – once he was locked up in a small, yellow-walled cell – moved from wanting to be a writer to writing, and how dedicating himself more fully to the thing he most wanted to do helped him endure and ultimately overcome the worst experience of his life.
  • Desire Lines
    Sixteen-year-old Walker has accidentally discovered that two female classmates are lovers. When a rabid evangelical preacher arrives in their town, a witch-hunt is launched against gay students and Walker, for some reason, is the prime target. Walker knows the quickest way to divert the attention would be to give away the girls’ secret—but should he sacrifice their peace of mind for his? A powerful, unusual and thought-provoking read from an award-winning author.
  • The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs
    On an unseasonably warm Easter Sunday, a young girl named Ivy discovers a chilling secret in the basement of the Rumbaugh Pharmacy across the street from the hotel where she lives with her mother. The discovery reveals a disturbing side to the eccentric lives of family friends Abner and Adolph Rumbaugh, known throughout their small western Pennsylvania town simply as the Twins. It seems that Ab and Dolph have been compelled by a powerful mutual love for their deceased mother to do something outrageous, something that in its own twisted way bridges the gap between the living and the dead. Immediately, Ivy’s discovery provokes the revelation of a Rumbaugh family curse, a curse that, as Ivy will learn over the coming years, holds a strange power over herself and her own mother.