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Company gifts Southmoreland students with popular book by Mt. Pleasant author

| Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
Paul Paterra | The Independent-Observer
Southmoreland Elementary School fourth-grade students display copies of the book, 'Dead End in Norvelt,' 30 copies of which were donated by Summit Machine Company, a Scottdale business. Students are, from left: Noah Morvosh, Ben Kritschgau, Jaydon Jones, Delaynie Morvosh, Elle Pawlikowsky and Grace Spadaro.

Fourth-grade students at Southmoreland Elementary School have taken a liking to written works by Mt. Pleasant native Jack Gantos in recent years.

Due to the generosity of a local business 30 copies of a book written by Gantos, “ Dead End in Norvelt,” were delivered to the school.

Heidi Lewandowski, fourth-grade teacher, said Summit Machine Company was the generous donor

“We got quite a nice surprise when the office called to say that two boxes were delivered to the office for the fourth grade,” Lewandowski said. “Students find this book so interesting and humorous that it starts a landslide of additional reading authored by Gantos.”

Tim and Pam Snyder of Summit Machine were happy to make the donation.

“Anything to help them read,” Pam Snyder said. “We asked if there was anything we can help with. The teacher said she really wanted them to read this book, this was a local author. So I figured I can't go wrong with books. We were glad to do it.”

Gantos was born in Mt. Pleasant, but has lived in many locales such as Barbados and south Florida and currently resides in Boston.

His first published book came in 1976 titled “ Rotten Ralph .” Gantos has continued to write children's books and has taught courses in children's book writing and children's literature. He developed the master's degree program in children's book writing at Emerson College and the Vermont College Master of Fine Arts program for children's book writers.

“Dead End in Norvelt” is set in 1962 and 12-year-old Jack Gantos is “grounded for life” by his parents. It seems Jack accidentally fired a live bullet from his dad's Japanese sniper's rifle, got in the middle of a dispute between his parents and disobeyed his mother's orders not to cut down her corn crop.

To get out of the house, he agrees to help his elderly neighbor, Miss Volker, with a special project.

This involves composing final health reports — or in this case obituaries — for Norvelt's original 250 families and delivering them to the editor of the Norvelt News. In the book, Miss Volker promised former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt (for whom Norvelt is named) she would keep health records on the original 250 families.

Local places are referred to in the book, with perhaps a small twist on the name.“He talks about Hoffer Funeral Home which is actually in Norvelt, but he calls it the Huffer Funeral Home, (in the book),” Lewandowski said. “It's neat because they're reading about it and the know they can go to these places.”

Novels such as this are used as part of the fourth-grade reading curriculum and Lewandowski said her students took great pleasure last year in developing a chart that followed familiar topics and themes throughout this book and others written by Gantos.

“I hope this book makes the same impact again this year,” Lewandowski said. “The kids have really taken to this one.”

Some of the school's other fourth-grade teachers, which will share the books with their classes, also were pleased with the donation.

“We are thrilled to add Dead End in Norvelt” to our fourth-grade library,” said Angie Ward. “This story will not only enable us to read a fresh and entertaining story, but also help increase our curiosity for local history.”

“Often children embrace stories of far off places filled with high adventure,” added Leslie Kuhns. “Our students have fallen for this humorous read that takes place in their backyard.”

Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or

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