Series: Joey Pigza


THE KEY THAT SWALLOWED JOEY PIGZA by Jack Gantos
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 2, 2014

"Dark, funny and pawzzz-i-tively brilliant. (Fiction. 10-13)"
Joey takes on his toughest set of challenges yet in this heart-rending, triumphant series finale. Read full book review >
I AM NOT JOEY PIGZA by Jack Gantos
Released: Aug. 7, 2007

Joey's father, Carter Pigza, is back in Joey's life. He's a new man with a new plan, even a new name: Charles Heinz, lottery winner and entrepreneur. Mrs. Pigza is now "Maria," not Fran, and Joey is "Freddy." New names, new identities, a chance to jettison the past and start over. But as craziness unfolds, Joey/Freddy begins to realize that "once you give up who you are, you can become anybody," but then how do you ever know who you really are? As Fran says, Maria was starting to feel "like a guest who wouldn't leave," and to Joey, "Freddy" is feeling like a lunatic. "I'm going crazy from not knowing who I am," he says. With this fourth installment in the series, Gantos offers it all: outrageous schemes, funny scenes, strong voice, dramatic characters and profound reflections on identity, family and love. It stands well on its own, though anyone new to Joey's saga will want to read more. This is Gantos at his best, and that's saying a lot. (Fiction. 10+)Read full book review >
WHAT WOULD JOEY DO? by Jack Gantos
Released: Oct. 21, 2002

Clad in black leather, Carter Pigza motorcycles into town like some mad vampire on the loose, with Mrs. Pigza chasing after him with a broom, looking like a witch about to take flight. Grandma huffs on the tube from her oxygen tank, threatening to shrivel into a zombie and haunt Joey for eternity. Moreover, Joey's only friend happens to be the baddest blind girl in town. Welcome to Joey's world. Hard to believe that Joey is the almost-normal one in this third and last installment in the chronicles of Joey Pigza. With his med patches, Joey has gotten better, but nobody else has. As in Joey Pigza Loses Control (2000), Humpty Dumpty is a powerful metaphor. In a world of untogether people—like Humpty after his fall—Joey wants to be together, even the one to make the whole world better. But it's a hard thing for a boy with problems of his own to be in charge of keeping house, family, and hope from being blown to smithereens. Images of monsters, allusions to fairy tale characters, and sparkling similes make for a wild tale. However, it's not just a funny story with nutty parents out of control, it's a poignant story of family, loss, lessons learned, and one boy's learning to make his way in the world with confidence and good cheer. This work easily stands by itself, but readers new to Joey Pigza will rush out to get the others, too. A must read. (Fiction. 10+)Read full book review >
JOEY PIGZA LOSES CONTROL by Jack Gantos
CHILDREN'S
Released: Sept. 22, 2000

As if Joey didn't get into enough trouble in his unforgettable debut, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (1998), Gantos has him wig out again in this sad, scary, blackly funny sequel. His hyperactivity under control thanks to new meds, Joey is looking forward to a six-week stay with his father Carter, hoping for some bonding. Unfortunately, his mother's warning: ". . . he can be, you know, wired like you, only he's bigger." understates the case. As a father, not to say a human being, Carter turns out to be appallingly dysfunctional: irresponsible, utterly self-centered, domineering, callous, and ominously short-fused. Smart enough to see through his father's loud assertions that he's turned over a new leaf, Joey nonetheless struggles to please, even when Carter flushes Joey's medication down the toilet, insisting that real men only need willpower to solve their personal problems. Joey tries to tough it out, hoping (despite bitter experience) that this time he won't go spinning off. Swept along by Joey's breathless narrative, readers will share his horrified fascination as, bit by bit, he watches the bad old habits and behavior come back. Joey's emphysemic Grandma, alternating drags on a cigarette with whiffs of oxygen as she trundles about the neighborhood in a shopping cart, and his Chihuahua Pablo, who survives both being locked in a glove compartment and having his ear pierced by a dart, provide the closest thing to comic relief here. The situation takes a dangerous turn when Joey eggs Carter into a wild rage; fortunately, his mother is just a phone call away, waiting in the wings to bail him out. Carter is truly frightening, a vision of what Joey could grow up to be, did he not possess the inner honesty to acknowledge his limitations (eventually), and caring adults to help him. A tragic tale in many ways, but a triumph too. (Fiction. 11-13)Read full book review >
JOEY PIGZA SWALLOWED THE KEY by Jack Gantos
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 1998

If Rotten Ralph were a boy instead of a cat, he might be Joey, the hyperactive hero of Gantos's new book, except that Joey is never bad on purpose. In the first-person narration, it quickly becomes clear that he can't help himself; he's so wound up that he not only practically bounces off walls, he literally swallows his house key (which he wears on a string around his neck and which he pull back up, complete with souvenirs of the food he just ate). Gantos's straightforward view of what it's like to be Joey is so honest it hurts. Joey has been abandoned by his alcoholic father and, for a time, by his mother (who also drinks); his grandmother, just as hyperactive as he is, abuses Joey while he's in her care. One mishap after another leads Joey first from his regular classroom to special education classes and then to a special education school. With medication, counseling, and positive reinforcement, Joey calms down. Despite a lighthearted title and jacket painting, the story is simultaneously comic and horrific; Gantos takes readers right inside a human whirlwind where the ride is bumpy and often frightening, especially for Joey. But a river of compassion for the characters runs through the pages, not only for Joey but for his overextended mom and his usually patient, always worried (if only for their safety) teachers. Mature readers will find this harsh tale softened by unusual empathy and leavened by genuinely funny events. (Fiction. 11-13) Read full book review >