From School Library Journal
Grade 5–7—Irrepressible Joey must draw upon all of his emotional reserves to face his latest challenge. His good-for-nothing dad shows up, having won the lottery and acquired a new identity. Carter Pigza is now Charles Heinz; he's won back Joey's mother, Fran (renamed Maria); and Joey is expected to forgive him his past sins and reinvent himself as Freddy Heinz. Dad has big plans for the family. He's bought a run-down diner and will use his son to drum up business by standing by the roadside in a bee costume. Mom is on a spending spree and pressures Joey to forgive his father and do as he says. But Joey senses how wrong this is, and his struggle is palpable. By the time he concedes, his father has given up on the diner idea and has spent all of his money on losing lottery tickets. As usual, when the chips are down, Carter takes off, just as Fran is about to have a baby. Gantos tells the tale with unfailing humor, delicious wordplay, and many hilarious scenes, but this is the darkest Joey book to date. Carter's unreliability is a given, but Fran Pigza's willingness to buy into the surreal scene is unsettling and underscores the fact that Joey is really on his own. Nevertheless, readers will cheer as his indomitable spirit prevails; he neither rescinds nor regrets his forgiveness, and he is thrilled to have a baby brother. The appearance of Junior Pigza promises a new purpose in Joey's life, the possibility of a future ally in his crazy world, and, perhaps, adventures to come.—Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
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*Starred Review* In this fourth installment of the Joey Pigza series, life becomes even more complicated for the wired sixth-grader when bad dad Carter and mom Fran reconcile and, in an attempt to start anew, reinvent themselves as the high-living Charles and Maria Heinz. Aided by a small pool of lottery winnings, hyperactive Charles dreams of success as the owner of a bee-themed diner and enlists the cooking and PR talents of Joey, whose schooling is quickly eschewed for an oversize bee costume and a sign advertising "fast food."Joey struggles with forgiving Charles for their rocky past and embracing his new identity as Freddy Heinz, but it is the memory of his grandmother and news of a baby Heinz on the way that prompt him to accept his father and realize that the adults in his life may have just as much difficulty making the right choices as he does. Gantos' hilarious storytelling, including accounts of an over-the-top "rewedding," an all-out paintball war between father and son, and a thwarted attempt at sneaking into an amusement park help soften the more serious issues at play in the story. Although the ending is heartbreaking, Joey, assuming his old identity, learns to let go of the past and dedicates himself to being a good role model for his new baby brother. McKulski, Kristen