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Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (Joey Pigza Books) Paperback – July 5, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Joey Pigza has problems. Big problems. He was emotionally abused by his grandmother. He has never met his dad. He can't get along in his elementary school classroom because of his mood swings and his "dud meds." We gradually see that Joey must have Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), which is not being effectively controlled with his current medication. Joey's life is a terrifying roller-coaster ride, and Jack Gantos, author of the Rotten Ralph books, drags the reader along to see what life is like with ADD. The story is written from the boy's point of view in a sharp, worried style that veers out of control when Joey does. Joey's control of his own behavior slips away as we read, horrified to see this boy trying to get a grip on his life and failing. He disrupts the class field trip; he puts his finger in a pencil sharpener and injures himself; he swallows his house key. Then he runs through the classroom holding open sharp scissors. When he trips and falls, seriously injuring a classmate, he is transferred to a special-education program in another school. Here, thankfully, he encounters a caring teacher who recommends further medical evaluation, and Joey is eventually able to return to his former school. There is hope for Joey on the last page--he sits in the Big Quiet Chair to read. Gantos has achieved an unusual feat with this book. We want to turn away from Joey's shifting prison of emotions. But for those who stick with him, he shows us what his life is like. We walk a mile in his shoes, our feet hurting all the way. For young readers touched by ADD--and for their teachers and parents--Joey gives us the key to his world. (Ages 10 and older) --Marcie Bovetz --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

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 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 9
  • Lexile Measure: 970L (What's this?)
  • Series: Joey Pigza Books (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Square Fish; Reprint edition (July 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312623550
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312623555
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.2 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (295 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #401,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

We highly recommend this book as a read aloud or book group selection.
Kathy LeClair
I learned about Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by our teacher reading it to us.(Mrs.DeCook) I like how Joey gets in trouble and learns from it.
Richard P Aupperle III
I expected this book to be used well in classrooms to help understand ADHD with all students.
Jay

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Volkert Volkersz on April 11, 2001
Format: Hardcover
As an elementary school librarian, who was diagnosed as an adult with ADHD, and who lives in a household with other ADHD people, I highly recommend this book!
"Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key," is a fast-paced novel written at about the 5th grade level. Since we acquired two copies in our library about a month ago, it has been constantly checked out! I've had a student and his mom come into the library specifically to thank me for bringing this book to their attention and for discussing it with the his sixth grade class.
If you want to crawl into the mind and body of a youngster with attention problems, spend some time with "Joey Pigza." What this kid does with his body, I've done in my mind my entire life, and I'm thankful to a number of medical professionals for helping me discover that I really was "wired" differently. (The book that really got me to seek help was "Driven to Distraction," by Edward M. Hallowell, which I also highly recommend.)
The reviewer who attributes Joey's problems to his physical environment, overstates the situation. Yes, diet, chemicals and emotional problems can contribute to attention problems, but as a person who has eaten healthy foods for many years, and who has very few chemicals in the home, I can attest that ADD/ADHD people are usually born this way. I found relief through meds. Last year, I secretly took myself off the meds, and people around me noticed the difference within weeks. So, now I know it really does make a difference.
Some people are misdiagnosed or over-medicated, which is why it's important to see a doctor who knows this disorder inside and out, like Joey finally did at the end of the book. This book should be read by any students, teachers or parents who either have attention problems, or who know someone who does. It would make an excellent read-aloud and discussion starter in an upper elementary classroom.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on June 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
Joey Pigza is not your average kid. He is a very annoying kid because he always challenges his teacher, Mrs. Maxy by doing really bad things. He also comes up with some very weird theories about himself being like the Tasmanian Devil. Joey Pigza can't stand still. He can't pay attention, he can't follow the rules, and he can't help it- especially when his meds aren't working. Joey's had problems ever since he was born, problems just like his Dad and Grandpa have. And whether he's wreaking havoc on a class trip or swallowing his house key, Joey's problems are getting worse. In fact, his behavior is so bad his teachers are threatening to send him to the special-ed center downtown. To find out if they do or do not send him there, you have to read this fantastic book. Joey knows he's a really good kid but no matter how hard he tries to do the right thing something always seems to go wrong. Will he ever get anything right?
Nominations & Awards: Finalist, 1998 National Book Award for Children's Literature Notable Children's Books of 1999 (ALA) Notable 1999 Children's Trade Book in Social Studies (NCSS/CBC)
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a teacher and the mother of a son with ADHD I was immediately drawn to this book. Yes, there are difficult passages that make us want to look away from the character, but the character, like a real-life ADHD child cannot step away. My son is now 20 years old and had a horrible time making friends in school, for many of the same reasons as Joey. He attests to the authenticity of feelings and the impulsiveness of actions that send Joey "pinging off the walls of his life." (Geof's words, not mine) I highly recommend this book for anyone who has ever come in contact with an ADHD child and wants to understand a little more about the illness.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Kelly L. Ayers on June 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
As a new elementary teacher, I stumbled on this book because of its interesting title. I couldn't put it down because it drew me in instantly. I felt sorry for Joey, but I was amazed how different his experience appeared from his point of view than what I might see as a teacher. A must read for teachers, parents, and children!
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I have never before such an honest and believeable description of a child with ADD. This book is almost painful to read, but I couldn't put it down, and I still think about it, months later. For anyone who knows somebody with ADD, this book opens up a whole new world of understanding. The best book, for children or adults, that I have read all year.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 10, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This novel takes the reader inside the head of a hyperactive boy, whose hyperactivity is as much or more proplelled by his running away from early abandonment as it is by his biochemistry. Though authors often try to take us inside the mind of a person very different from ourselves, success at the level of JOEY PIGZA SWALLOWED THE KEY is extremely rare. In this novel the energy of the prose conveys both the protagonist's activity and his thought processes, as he runs away from unbearable moments in his past with both comic and tragic consequences. The sources of Joey's problems are deftly sketched in a way that deepens the story immensely without forcing young readers to dwell on the moments of horror in Joey's past. A masterful work that will foster empathy in young readers and help them to understand how somebody who, like Joey, is a problem--can also be most loveable and in the deepest ways, very like themselves.
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