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Joey Pigza swallowed the key

by Jack Gantos


Book Review

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Publishers Weekly :

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Authentic-sounding first-person narration by a hyperactive boy gives readers an inside view of attention-deficit disorders. Joey Pigza is a "wired-up mess," and he is struggling to get on the right track. But no matter how hard Joey tries to be good, he usually ends up in trouble, sometimes harming himself or others. After an accident in which the tip of a classmate's nose is sliced off, Joey is suspended from school and sent to a special education center. As case worker "Special Ed" predicts, things do get worse before they get better. Joey's fear that "something [is] wrong inside me" escalates before his medications are readjusted and he is finally able to learn how to make "good decisions." Joey's good intentions, off-the-wall antics and their disastrous consequences will ring true to everyone who has had contact with a child suffering from a similar disorder. In addition to offering an accurate, compassionate and humorous appraisal of Joey's condition, Gantos (the Rotten Ralph series; Desire Lines) humanely examines nature (both Joey's father and grandmother are as "wired up" as he) versus nurture (abandonment by Joey's parents, abuse by his grandmother, children's taunts) as factors in Joey's problems. Joey's hard-won triumph will reassure children fighting his same battle and offer insight to their peers. But because the book is so realistic, reading it can be painful and requires patience, just like dealing with a child like Joey. Ages 10-up.

Copyright 1998 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Book Review

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School Library Journal :

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Gr 5-8-Joey Pigza suffers from severe attention deficit disorder and struggles to remain calm when his world chaotically slips through his fingertips. When his medicine wears off, he cannot concentrate or sit still and is constantly in trouble at school. After leaving him for several years in the care of his abusive grandmother, his mother returns to reclaim him and her parental responsibilities. But Joey remains a challenge: he continually disrupts his class, swallows his house key, and runs away during a field trip. Eventually, he injures a classmate and is sent to a special education center for six weeks; here his medication is regulated and he learns how to manage his behavior. Joey leaves the center feeling strong and in control and he triumphantly returns to his old school. Gantos creates a strong cast of multidimensional characters. Joey is inherently a good kid and just as his teachers want him to succeed, readers will empathize and feel his emotional and physical bruises. References to alcoholism and abuse add realism to the novel without impeding the flow of the plot. In his first-person narrative, Joey relates incidents that are heart wrenching and humorous. From the powerful opening lines and fast-moving plot to the thoughtful inner dialogue and satisfying conclusion, readers will cheer for Joey, and for the champion in each of us.-Shawn Brommer, Southern Tier Library System, Painted Post, NY

Copyright 1998 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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