Cover image for The key that swallowed Joey Pigza
The key that swallowed Joey Pigza
Gantos, Jack.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
[New York] : Listening Library, [2014]
Physical Description:
3 audio discs (3 1/2 hr.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
"Everything goes topsy-turvy for Joey as he becomes the man of the house, looking after his new baby brother, taking care of his troubled mother, and seeking out his missing father"--
General Note:
Title from container.

Compact discs.

Duration: 3:30:00.

Format :
Audiobook on CD


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
J FICTION CD Juvenile Audiobook on CD Audiobooks
J FICTION CD Juvenile Audiobook on CD Audiobooks
J FICTION CD Juvenile Audiobook on CD Audiobooks

On Order



The fifth and final book in the groundbreaking Joey Pigza series brings the beloved chronicle of this wired, wacky, and wonderful boy to a crescendo of chaos and craziness, as everything goes topsy-turvy for Joey just as he starts to get his feet on the ground. With his dad MIA in the wake of appearance-altering plastic surgery, Joey must give up school to look after his new baby brother and fill in for his mom, who hospitalizes herself to deal with a bad case of postpartum blues. As his challenges mount, Joey discovers a key that could unlock the secrets to his father's whereabouts, a mystery that must be solved before Joey can even hope that his broken family might somehow come back together--if only it doesn't pull him apart first.

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

*Starred Review* The fifth and (ostensibly) final book in the multi-award-winning Joey Pigza chronicle features all of the drama, havoc, and heart readers have come to expect, dread, and love. Joey is back in his roachy row house with his mother and new baby brother, Carter Jr., as the family works to find some normalcy following the tragicomic chaos perpetrated by his now-absent father. But it's not long before Fran, struggling with postpartum depression, checks herself into a hospital, leaving Joey to take care of the baby alone. Gantos piles on the problems, defining them in searing, heartrending detail; for all the peril of Joey's circumstances, it is his parents' brutal honesty that leaves welts. Still, Joey's indomitable spirit, grounded in his fierce, tender devotion to baby Carter and expressed through Gantos' inimitable comic tone, shows the fragile adults around him just what it looks like to be the man of the house. The book, with the series, closes on a fitting note of tenuous, plausible hope. High-Demand Backstory: The conclusion of Gantos' beloved and much-lauded series is big news, and Joey's fans of all ages will want to grab their copies as soon as possible.--Barthelmess, Thom Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

"It is so much easier to be in trouble all the time because then everyone wants to help you," laments Joey Pigza in this fifth and final volume of his chronicles. Suffering from postpartum depression, Joey's mother checks into the hospital, leaving Joey to care for Carter Junior. Meanwhile, Joey's estranged father, sporting a face like Frankenstein after a botched facelift, is trying to kidnap baby Carter. Joey's life is so sad-his mother has hidden his meds, cockroaches roam the kitchen, and there's nothing to eat but pizza, which he pays for (illegally) with food stamps-that readers may fervently hope the police do show up, jail his parents, and put the Pigza boys in foster care. Collectively, the Pigza series is a poignant examination of modern dysfunction, a window into how kids in tough family situations come to believe they are damaged and incapable of redemption. "I guess once a nail is bent there is no way to make it perfectly straight again," Joey concludes. Though warm-hearted Joey demonstrates tremendous growth and maturity, it's uncertain he'll ever be able to overcome his childhood. Ages 10-14. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 4-7-The beloved Joey Pigza returns in this gem of a book narrated by the irrepressible author. This time, Joey is left in charge when his mom, suffering from postpartum depression, leaves him for a stint at a mental hospital. He must care for his beloved baby brother, Carter Pigza Jr., with only some food stamps and his strength of will and generous spirit. Joey's MIA dad has had very bad plastic surgery and decides he wants the baby so Joey must also deal with protecting the baby from his crazy father. Add to the mix Olivia, "the meanest cute blind girl [Joey has] ever loved" and you've got yourself a situation. Joey does his very best to protect everyone while waiting for his mom to be released from the hospital. Things get pretty bad but Joey's loving heart and strong character see him through each challenge, especially once he finds his meds that his mom had hidden. Gantos is a superb narrator, emphasizing the "pawzzitive" while never shying away from the realities of Joey's life. While the adults around him are spinning out of control, Joey may be frantic but he is truly the man of the house. Gantos makes the hopeful ending seem real and allows listeners to feel that they're leaving Joey Pigza in good hands. VERDICT This recording belongs in every collection.-B. Allison Gray, Goleta Library, CA (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



1 HOUSE-OF-PIGZA I'm Joey Pigza and here I am again back in my roachy row house on Plum Street and living my whole wired past, present, and future all at the same time. I'm sure I need a triple med patch for living the hop-skip-and-a-jump life I lead, but at the moment the house seems to have used them all up. A few weeks ago Mom slipped into one of her drifty moods and hid my meds, or maybe she just said she hid what's left of them because we don't have the cash to pay for more. Who knows what she did, because when she's spacey her memory gets all fluffy like skywriting that fades away for good. But she keeps telling me not to worry because my meds are in "a baby-safe place" and that when she gets all drifty again she'll remember where they are. I don't blame her for wanting to keep my meds out of harm's way, because she doesn't want baby Carter Junior getting into them by accident. He's the opposite of me, and if he got a hold of my meds I figure he'd get wired up and start zooming around the baseboards doing wheelies like a psycho baby in diapers, or else he'd be taking a zonked-out snooze for a few months like a bear cub in hibernation. I'm not really sure what my meds would do to him, but either way we'd have to call 911 for an ambulance and the next thing you know the Child Welfare people would haul Mom away for being a dud mom. I don't want that to take place, but my clock is ticking and without my meds who knows what kind of meltdown I might have in this roached-out house. In fact, it seems all the bad things in my life started right here in this crazy house on Plum Street. I even stuck one of my med patches on the front door, but when the meds didn't change our home life for the better I scrawled Out of Order across the patch and left it stuck there. I always thought this house caused trouble, but once we got away from it the trouble just followed right along with us like the busted furniture we hauled to the new house. And now that Mom and I and baby Carter Junior are back in the old house, with all the old furniture, the bad stuff has started haunting us all over again. Maybe if I lived in a new house, with all new stuff, everything would change for the better. But deep inside I don't think so. I can't blame who I am on where I live, because who I am is how I live. My old sped teacher, Special Ed, once told me you really get to know a kid by the type of games he makes up. I think my all-time favorite game was swallowing my house key on a string and pulling it back up with a little drippy lunch dangling on the end, and then doing it again. I perfected it at home but when I swallowed it at school my teacher cut the string. I won't give you the potty details, but a day later I did get that same key back. It dropped out my revolving door the natural way. And even though I washed it a hundred times with soap and hot water, nobody in class would sniff it--not even if I licked it first! So, here's my new favorite game. At night, I stand dead still in our pitch-black kitchen and sprinkle a packet of coffee-shop sugar around my feet. Then I take a deep breath and freeze all my muscles as the roaches inch out of their hiding places and slowly gather around the sugar for a belly-filling feast. But I wait and wait and wait, and even as I silently stand there with a twisted grin growing tighter across my face I know this is all wrong. But doing what is wrong in this House-of-Pigza seems so right, so I don't move an inch until my lips are clown-crazy huge and can't stretch any wider without splitting open, and then I flick the light switch and it's Game on! The roaches take off and you can hear them chirping with fear as they skitter back to the cracks in the walls. They are fast, but so am I, and my hands slap after them like snapping bullwhips and I flatten a bunch of them. I keep a Rubbed-Out-Roach chart written on the inside door of the snack cabinet, which is their private clubhouse. Once I gather up the dead I give myself ten points for the big ones, five for the medium, and half a point for any babies smaller than my fingernail. I figure in a week I'll have a thousand points. I don't have a clue what this game says about me, but after playing it I find myself breathing heavily while hunched in front of the bathroom mirror making Japanese-horror-movie faces as if I'm a terrified little roach and a giant human Joey hand is going to slap the guts out of me. Or maybe I do have a clue about what that game means. Special Ed had also said that everyone in the whole world has a special gift, and my special gift is that I can feel everything everyone else feels. He told me it is the most powerful gift in the world because I can feel everyone's happiness and become super happy, and he also warned me that it is the most distressing gift because I can feel everyone's sadness and the weight of their sadness can fill me with sorrow and drop me to my knees. I sure know what he means by that because when I hear my mother weeping at night I weep too. It's hard to call weeping a gift, but then again, when she stops crying and laughs out loud I'm never happier. I'm just trying to get back on track and make sense of myself these days because ever since my parents split up again there is no sense in me hoping things will get better between them. All my life I've had my ups and downs because of their hit-or-miss moments. Each morning they'd roll out of bed like a pair of fuzzy dice tumbling across a game board and I never knew if they would end up even or odd or not. So while I waited for them to bounce off the walls and maybe add up to a lucky day, I'd just stand as still as a pencil drawing of a boy with my eyes X-ed out and my mouth bolted shut as if I was locked out of my own heart and had lost the key. It's bad to fear your parents, but worse is when you fear yourself. I used to think I was getting better without my meds, but now I feel like I'm returning to the old days when I lived with my grandma. In those days I couldn't look into a mirror without my eyes spinning like carnival lights. Now those old days don't feel so old anymore. This morning I looked in the mirror and my eyes were sparking and right away I had to twist my head to one side and take a deep breath. "Settle down, Joey," I whispered. "Take a time-out." But my eyes were already flashing: Danger zone ahead! I mean, how can seeing me, and being me, be hurting me? How can I be the worst person in my own life? Please, if you know the answer, do get back to me on that! Text copyright © 2014 Jack Gantos Excerpted from The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza by Jack Gantos All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.