Cover image for Joey Pigza swallowed the key
Joey Pigza swallowed the key
Gantos, Jack.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : [Farrar, Straus and Giroux], [1998].
Physical Description:
153 pages ; 22 cm
To the constant disappointment of his mother and his teachers, Joey has trouble paying attention or controlling his mood swings when his prescription meds wear off and he starts getting worked up and acting wired.
General Note:
Publisher imprint varies.
Reading Level:
970 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 4.9 5.0 29525.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 5.2 9 Quiz: 18755 Guided reading level: T.

Format :


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"They say I'm wired bad, or wired sad, but there's no doubt about it -- I'm wired."

Joey Pigza's got heart, he's got a mom who loves him, and he's got "dud meds," which is what he calls the Ritalin pills that are supposed to even out his wild mood swings. Sometimes Joey makes bad choices. He learns the hard way that he shouldn't stick his finger in the pencil sharpener, or swallow his house key, or run with scissors. Joey ends up bouncing around a lot - and eventually he bounces himself all the way downown, into the district special-ed program, which could be the end of theline. As Joey knows, if he keeps making bad choices, he could just fall between the cracks for good. But he is determined not to let that happen.

In this antic yet poignant new novel, Jack Gantos has perfect pitch in capturing the humor, the off-the-wall intensity, and the serious challenges that life presents to a kid dealing with hyper-activity and related disorders. This title has Common Core connections.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key is a 1998 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature.

Author Notes

Jack Gantos was born in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania on July 2, 1951. He received a BFA and a MA from Emerson College. While in college, he and an illustrator friend, Nicole Rubel, began working on picture books. After a series of rejections, they published their first book, Rotten Ralph, in 1976. His other books include Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor book, and Dead End in Norvelt, which won the 2012 Newbery Medal. His memoir, Hole in My Life, won the Michael L. Printz and Robert F. Sibert Honors. Jack's follow-up to Hole in My Life is The Trouble in Me He also teaches courses in children's book writing and children's literature. He dev.eloped the master's degree program in children's book writing at Emerson College and the Vermont College M.F.A. program for children's book writers.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-7. Joey Pigza, who lives with his hyperactive grandmother, understands that he's also "wired bad." Despite his best intentions, he can't concentrate and can't hold still. What's more, he can never resist an impulse: when his teacher assigns him to sharpening pencils to keep him from getting into mischief, he sharpens pencils, then chalk, then a Popsicle stick, and finally his own finger. He begins to settle down when his mother returns and gets him started on medication, but unfortunately, his morning pill wears off by noon every day. What makes this unusual is Gantos' sympathetic approach to all concerned. There are no bad guys among the adults, just well-meaning, occasionally exasperated grown-ups trying to help Joey get his behavior under control. Joey tells his own story, giving a vivid, keenly observed, detailed account of his actions and the reactions of others: "By lunchtime my meds had worn off again and I was spinning around in my chair like it was the Mad Hatter's Teacup ride at the church carnival." Gantos sometimes seems to be using Joey to inform readers, and occasionally makes Joey's comments seem too adult, but Joey is warm, lovable, and good-hearted, though maybe just a little too nice to be realistic. (He never even gets angry when he's deprived of the sugary treats he so craves.) Most teachers and students know at least one child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and this book will surely help them become more understanding, even as they enjoy Gantos' fresh writing style and tart sense of humor. --Susan Dove Lempke

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a starred review, PW called this National Book Award finalist "an accurate, compassionate and humorous appraisal of a boy with attention-deficit disorder." Ages 10-up. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Joey Pigza is wired. His prescription "meds" are no match for his mood swings. His mom's been warned that if he keeps acting up he could be transferred to the downtown special-ed center for problem kids. By Jack Gantos. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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