Sunday, March 6, 2011

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

Gantos, J. (1998). Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Plot Summary:
Joey Pigza's mom and dad ran off when he was a baby and left him to be raised by his emotionally abusive grandmother. After cleaning herself up a bit, Joey's mom returns to take care of him. Joey has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). His grandmother didn't believe there was anything medically wrong with him and the medicine he's been taking since his mom arrived isn't working. Joey has good days and bad days and usually can't sit still after lunch. Joey's school has a hard time with him and doesn't have the resources to provide the care he needs. After his repeated outbursts in class that often not only injure himself, but his classmates as well, Joey is ordered to go to a Special Education school. Once at this special school, Joey is taught more about his disorder and given tests and has x-rays taken of his brain. His doctors put him on a new drug that seems to help with his hyperactivity. Joey is able to return to his regular school and realizes that he is a good kid after all, he just has some medical issues that need attended to.

The author of this book does an incredible job putting the reader in the mind of a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. This book was really uncomfortable for me to read at times because of the unfortunate circumstances of Joey's family life and his struggle with trying to be good. Joey is extremely likable and the author succeeds in getting the reader to see his internal struggle with wanting to do right, but his mind and body not allowing him. I think that this would be a great book for teachers, parents, and maybe even children with ADD, but I wouldn't have imagined that many children would be interested or really understand Joey's struggle. But, I suppose the author included enough silliness of Joey's character to have wide appeal and I know it is a very well liked book by kids. Joey is a funny guy and says a lot of funny things such as his token response to any question, "can I get back to you on that?"

realistic fiction

Reading Level:
Ages 9 - 12

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, single-parent, alcoholic, emotional abuse

ALA Notable Children's Book
California Young Reader Medal
National Book Award Finalist

Series Information:
First book in Joey Pigza series:
Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key
Joey Pigza Loses Control
What Would Joey Do?
I am Not Joey Pigza

Character Names/Descriptions:
Joey Pigza: raised by his emotionally abusive grandmother; mother is an alcoholic; has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
grandmother: Joey's paternal grandmother; raises Joey until his mom returns; she is emotionally abusive to Joey, she leaves when Joey's mom returns
mom: Joey's mom; she returns to raise Joey after being gone most of his life; she is an alcoholic; she is finally trying to help Joey and get him the medicine and attention he needs
Mrs. Maxey: Joey's teacher at his regular school; tries to help Joey but is concerned that he is going to hurt himself or other students
Maria Dombrowski: good student in Joey's class; Joey accidentally cuts off the tip of her nose
Ed Vanness (Special Ed): Joey's caseworker at the special education school

Joey tries to be good and sit still like he's asked, but his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder prevents him from doing so. When he's moved to a special school and given more attention from his mom, case worker, and teachers, Joey begins making progress along with a medication that hopefully will help.

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