Jack Gantos

Middle Grade/Young Adult Author
Newberry Award Winner
Travels from: Boston, MA

“While the book is directed at serious writers in the making, there’s enough exaggeration and grossness to keep readers laughing.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

Jack Gantos has written books for readers of all ages, from picture books and middle-grade fiction to novels for young adults and adults. His works include Hole in My Life, a memoir that won the Michael L. Printz and Robert F. Sibert honors; Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor book, and Dead End in Norvelt, the 2012 Newbery Medal Winner, and the Scott O’Dell Award Winner for Best Historic Fiction.

​Jack was born in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania, and grew up in the nearby town of Norvelt. He remembers playing a lot of “pass the chalk” in Mrs. Neiderheizer’s class in first grade. He was in the Bluebird reading group, which he later found out was for the slow readers. To this day he’d rather be called a Bluebird than a slow reader. His favorite game at that time was playing his clothes were on fire and rolling down a hill to save himself.

Prepare an Invitation for:

Writing Radar

Farrar, Straus and Giroux |
Nonfiction

The Newbery Award–winning author of Dead End in Norvelt shares advice for how to be the best brilliant writer in this funny and practical creative writing guide perfect for all kids who dream of seeing their name on the spine of a book.

With the signature wit and humor that have garnered him legions of fans, Jack Gantos instructs young writers on using their “writing radar” to unearth story ideas from their everyday lives. Incorporating his own misadventures as a developing writer, Gantos inspires readers to build confidence and establish good writing habits as they create, revise, and perfect their stories. Pop-out text boxes highlight key tips, alongside Gantos’s own illustrations, sample stories, and snippets from his childhood journals. More than just a how-to guide, Writing Radar is a celebration of the power of storytelling and an ode to the characters who—many unwittingly—inspired Gantos’s own writing career.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

Square Fish |
Middle Grade Novel

“They say I’m wired bad, or wired sad, but there’s no doubt about it—I’m wired.”

Joey Pigza’s got heart, he’s got a mom who loves him, and he’s got “dud meds,” which is what he calls the Ritalin pills that are supposed to even out his wild mood swings. Sometimes Joey makes bad choices. He learns the hard way that he shouldn’t stick his finger in the pencil sharpener, or swallow his house key, or run with scissors. Joey ends up bouncing around a lot – and eventually he bounces himself all the way downtown, into the district special-ed program, which could be the end of the line. As Joey knows, if he keeps making bad choices, he could just fall between the cracks for good. But he is determined not to let that happen.

In this antic yet poignant new novel, Jack Gantos has perfect pitch in capturing the humor, the off-the-wall intensity, and the serious challenges that life presents to a kid dealing with hyper-activity and related disorders. This title has Common Core connections.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key is a 1998 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature.

Dead End in Norvelt

Dead End in Norvelt is the 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!

Melding the entirely true and the wildly fictional, Dead End in Norvelt is a novel about an incredible two months for a kid named Jack Gantos, whose plans for vacation excitement are shot down when he is “grounded for life” by his feuding parents, and whose nose spews bad blood at every little shock he gets. But plenty of excitement (and shocks) are coming Jack’s way once his mom loans him out to help a feisty old neighbor with a most unusual chore—typewriting obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his utopian town. As one obituary leads to another, Jack is launched on a strange adventure involving molten wax, Eleanor Roosevelt, twisted promises, a homemade airplane, Girl Scout cookies, a man on a trike, a dancing plague, voices from the past, Hells Angels . . . and possibly murder.

Endlessly surprising, this sly, sharp-edged narrative is the author at his very best, making readers laugh out loud at the most unexpected things in a dead-funny depiction of growing up in a slightly off-kilter place where the past is present, the present is confusing, and the future is completely up in the air.

Jack Adrift: Fourth Grade Without a Clue: A Jack Henry Adventure

Square Fish |
Middle Grade Novel

From the Newbery Medal–winning author of Dead End in Norvelt, eight side-splitting stories about a boy who is doing his best to keep his head above water

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.

This colorful and comic new collection of interrelated stories featuring the author’s hapless alter ego is the first of five books in the Jack Henry series, praised by Booklist for their “hilarious, exquisitely painful, and utterly on-target depiction” of a boy’s life.

This title has Common Core connections.

Hole in My Life

Farrar, Straus and Giroux |
Memoir

Becoming a writer the hard way

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. This title has Common Core connections.

Hole in My Life is a 2003 Bank Street – Best Children’s Book of the Year.

Rotten Ralph

Clarion Books |
Picture Book

Ralph, a very, very nasty cat, finally sees the error of his ways — or does he?

Praise For Rotten Ralph

“Rotten Ralph . . . is irresistible.” Publishers Weekly

“Fans won’t be disappointed by the outcome of Gantos’ new Rotten Ralph adventure. It not only sparkles with the usual Ralph pranks, but also gives the feisty feline a little payback of sorts for a change.” Booklist, ALA —

Authors-Unbound_icon-web-link.png

Picture Book Session

The focus for this lesson is on creating picture books using all the “elements of writing” within a well-organized “beginning, middle, ending” story structure. Of course, it all begins with creating great characters like… ROTTEN RALPH!

Authors-Unbound_icon-web-link.png

Short Story Session

This lesson focuses on my writing handbook for students: Writing Radar and how to set up the writer’s journal in order to capture great ideas from personal experience, how to write a first draft, and how to bring structure and the elements-of-writing together for a well-organized and polished story. Books covered include the Newbery Award Winning Dead End in Norvelt, the “Joey Pigza” series of novels and Audible “Joey Pigza” recordings, and the “Jack Henry” series of autobiographical short stories.

Authors-Unbound_icon-web-link.png

Memoir & Novel Session

Writing workshops for upper grades cover setting up a writer’s journal to a full range of writing forms. Books covered include: The Trouble in Me, Desire Lines, and Hole in My Life.

Authors-Unbound_icon-web-link.png

Using Your Journal to Snoop Out Great Stories

Newbery Award-winning author Jack Gantos shares advice for how to be the best brilliant writer in this funny and practical writing guide perfect for all kids who dream of seeing their name on the spine of a book.

Resources for Teachers

Resources for Young Writers

Jack’s Scrapbook

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Newberry Honor Book
National Book Award
Michael L. Printz Award

Media Kit

By clicking the link below your will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

Similar Authors

Bestselling Author/Illustrator
Award Winning Children’s Author
Middle Grade & Young Adult Novelist
Middle Grade/Young Adult Author
Children’s/Middle Grade Author & Illustrator

Interested in hosting this author?
Send us a message and an A|U Agent will return to you ASAP!