cover image Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

Jack Gantos. Farrar Straus Giroux, $16.99 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-374-33664-6

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. (Oct.)