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Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

4.2 167
by Jack Gantos

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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


"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 downtown, into the district special-ed program, which could be the end of the line. 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 hyperactivity and related disorders.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Uma Krishnaswami
Joey Pigza is wired. Not just that, but he's got a wired streak in his family. Not just that, but he's heading for deeper and deeper trouble. He can't sit still. He does bizarre things that cross the border from funny to scary in the spin of a wrist. And he can't stop himself. But most of all, he can't figure out why life with the troubled mother he loves is so filled with "everyday sadness." Gantos takes the reader into the fractured world of the child with what we today call ADHD. Whose road to what we might call normalcy is rocky beyond imagining. The reader follows that road in this story, with Joey's direct, edgy, matter-of-fact voice as guide. Gritty, often disturbing, yet ending with a glimpse of the awesome resilience of this young protagonist.
VOYA - Rayna Patton
Joey Pigza is hyperactive and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), and he knows it. Being wired is something that runs in his family; Joey's father skipped out when Joey was in kindergarten. His mother left shortly afterwards, abandoning Joey to the dubious care of a batty and abusive grandmother. For years Joey lived in chaos, until his mother came home sobered up and determined to take care of him. The trouble is that the meds Joey takes to control his condition work only half a day, and when they wear off he is quite literally off the wall, impossible in a classroom and a menace to himself and others. When Joey precipitates an accident that seriously injures a classmate, he is sent to a special education school-where, as Joey observes, the kids arrive punished already with crippling handicaps. The school marks another turning point for Joey. A supportive caseworker helps Joey deal with and understand his disability, and he is put on a continuous release patch that evens out the delivery of his drugs. Joey returns to his old school feeling calmed down, hopeful, and even a little good about himself. Joey; his gutsy, struggling mother; and his long-suffering teachers come to life in this highly readable novel that is sometimes funny, sometimes heartrending, and both entertaining and engrossing. Be aware, though, that the plot and a lot of Joey's inner dialogues hang on the drugs that do or do not control his condition. Readers uncomfortable with the way that medicines are used to control children's behavior are going to have qualms about this story. There are plenty of Joeys in schools today, and it is good to have one of their stories told with such skill and sympathy. VOYA Codes: 5Q 3P M (Hard to imagine it being better written, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8).
School Library Journal
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. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
If Rotten Ralph were a boy instead of a cat, he might be Joey, the hyperactive hero of Gantos' new book, except that Joey is never bad on purpose. In the first-person narration, it quickly becomes clear that he can't help himself; he's so wound up that he not only practically bounces off walls, he literally swallows his house key (which he wears on a string around his neck and which he pull back up, complete with souvenirs of the food he just ate). Gantos's straightforward view of what it's like to be Joey is so honest it hurts. Joey has been abandoned by his alcoholic father and, for a time, by his mother (who also drinks); his grandmother, just as hyperactive as he is, abuses Joey while he's in her care. One mishap after another leads Joey first from his regular classroom to special education classes and then to a special education school. With medication, counseling, and positive reinforcement, Joey calms down. Despite a lighthearted title and jacket painting, the story is simultaneously comic and horrific; Gantos takes readers right inside a human whirlwind where the ride is bumpy and often frightening, especially for Joey. But a river of compassion for the characters runs through the pages, not only for Joey but for his overextended mom and his usually patient, always worried (if only for their safety) teachers. Mature readers will find this harsh tale softened by unusual empathy and leavened by genuinely funny events. (Ages 11-13) .

From the Publisher
“* In this rollercoaster of a ride, ingenuously and breathlessly narrated by Joey himself, readers are treated to an up-close introduction to life with attention deficit disorder--or being wired, as Joey puts it. . . . Readers of this compelling tragicomedy will know almost from the start that Joey's not just a good kid--he's a great kid.” —The Horn Book, starred review

Product Details

Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
Joey Pigza Series , #1
Edition description:
Unabridged, 2 cassettes, 3 hrs.
Product dimensions:
4.33(w) x 6.98(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Off the Wall

At school they say I'm wired bad, or wired mad, or wired sad, or wired glad, depending on my mood and what teacher has ended up with me. But there is no doubt about it, I'm wired.

This year was no different. When I started out all the days there looked about the same. In the morning I'd be okay and follow along in class. But after lunch, when my meds had worn down, it was nothing but trouble for me.

One day, we were doing math drills in class and every time Mrs. Maxy asked a question, like "What's nine times nine?" I'd raise my hand because I'm really quick at math. But each time she called on me, even though I knew the answer, I'd just blurt out, "Can I get back to you on that?" Then I'd nearly fall out of my chair from laughing. And she'd give me that white-lipped look which meant, "Settle down." But I didn't and kept raising my hand each time she asked a question until finally no other kid would raise their hand because they knew what was coming between me and Mrs. Maxy.

"Okay, Joey," she'd say, calling on me and staring hard at my face as if her eyes were long fingers that could grip me by the chin. I'd stare right back and hesitate a second as if I was planning to answer the question and then I'd holler out really loud, "Can I get back to you on that?" Finally, after a bunch of times of me doing that in a row, she jerked her thumb toward the door. "Out in the hall," she said. And the class cracked up.

So I went and stood in the hall for about a second until I remembered the mini-Superball in my pocket and started to bounce it off the lockers and ceiling and after Mrs. Deebs in the nextclass stuck her head out her door and yelled, "Hey, cut the racket," like she was yelling at a stray cat, I remembered something I wanted to try. I had seen the Tasmanian Devil on TV whirling around like a top so I unbuckled my belt and pulled on the end really hard, as if I was trying to start a lawn mower. But that didn't get me spinning very fast. So I took out my high-top shoelaces and tied them together and then to the belt and wrapped it all around my waist. Then I grabbed one end and yanked on it and sort of got myself spinning. I kept doing it until I got better and better and before long I was bouncing off the lockers because I was dizzy too. Then I gave myself one more really good pull on the belt and because I was already dizzy I got going really fast and began to snort and grunt like the Tasmanian Devil until Mrs. Maxy came out and clamped her hands down on my shoulders. She stopped me so fast I spun right out of my shoes and they went shooting up the hall.

"You glue your feet to the floor for five whole minutes or you can just spin yourself down to the principal's office," she said. "Now, what is your choice going to be?"

"Can I get back to you on that?" I asked.

Her face turned all red. "Five minutes," she said. "Settle down for five, and you can rejoin the class."

I nodded, and when she was gone I wrapped the belt and laces around my middle and gave it a good tug and began to spin and spin and slam into the lockers and I got going so good the gum I had under my tongue flew out and my Superball slipped out of my hand and went bouncing down the hall and I kept going and going like when you roll down a steep hill and before long I was bumping on the glass walls around the principal's office like a dizzy fish in a tank. Then the principal came out and pinned me against the wall and we had a little talk about my behavior goals and I spent the rest of the day on her office floor sorting out all the used crayons that the kindergartners kept in big plastic tubs until I had separate piles of blue and green and red and yellow and you know the rest.

Meet the Author

Jack Gantos is also the author of Jack on the Tracks and the other adventures in the Jack Henry quintet, as well as the many popular picture books in the Rotten Ralph series. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts. Look for the entire Joey Pigza series as well as The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs and Hole in My Life on audio from Listening Library.

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Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 167 reviews.
Mike-n-Ike More than 1 year ago
Joey Pigza is a bright 10-year-old boy that looks like you and me. But everything starts when his grandma was born. Though out his family they had problems with alcohol and when his dad runs away Joey is left with his crazed up grandma. His grandma doesn't help with his problem. And when his meds don't work Joey is out of the ordinary. From swallowing his house key to sharpening his finger in a pencil sharpener will his determined mom and loving teacher help Joey get better? I would recommend this book for ages 8-99. It's a book for everyone and when you pick it up you pick it up you won't put it down. From the odd and interesting story line to the author's descriptive language obviously out of 5 stars this is a 5 star book. And if Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key isn't enough for you then you should pickup the next book Joey Pigza Loses Control to read more about the crazed up life of Joey Pigza.
MrsJF More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book that puts you in the mind of a child struggling with ADHD. His struggles and the responses of those around us teach a lesson that I think could be great for all ages. Plus the added bonus that it is a really fun read!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Recently, I read Joey Pigza Swallowed the key. It was a very exciting book.Wether Joey is swallowing his house key and throwing up or cutting off Maria Dombrowski's nose and getting suspended,he is always up to something.One of my favorite parts is where joey eats a whole molasas pie and he jumps off the rafters of an Amish barn on a field trip and jumps into the haystacks and hurts his ankle and blames his 'dud' mediceine because he is A.D./H.D..He is sent to a hospital for radioliogy.His Dad and grandma ran off to Pittsburgh (n or he thinks). Overall give this book two stars because it could be boring but it sucked you into it.I recommend this book for young readers-a 6th grader
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a funny book i cant believe he swallowed a key for a buck hilarious
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The writing is good and joey is AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love all the description. Its funny and u can really relate
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was gross but funny and yet i like it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good but i never heard of someone cutting off a nose and btw i will blab until this characters run out iam flabby gabby that blabbys i love blabbing until the world ends any way about the book its great stupendous its funny its the bst book i have read in ages its also the funniest it was sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo funny i was laughing and saying COOL instead of ewwwwwww and by the way like i said before the author made a mistake i forgot the page but on one of the pages i made a note saying that its not accidents its accident but oh well it may not even bea mistake im the one making the mistake but jack gantos is soo funny and descriptive mabe a little to descriptve like im being with this comment of mine more than two thousand characters left so i better keep writing and like in the ¿ber LONG and i mean LONG titlw the book was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooopooooo ¿ber funny like ¿berduper¿uper funny this is like a chat room lol five stars for this ¿berduper¿uperfunny nook lol i mean book isent that funny i saidd nook when i ment book and it was while i was using the nook so how are you people doing u may think im crazy for posting a long cooment but im done now but so i can use up my charcters im putting soo very long teehee sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo d
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good word choice,and creates a clear pictute in my mind of what's happening.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like this book. I thought the book was written well
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I like it because it could happen in real life
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He has adhd like me
Janet Horan More than 1 year ago
I think this book can relate to a lot of people with ADHD cause i have ADHD and i thout (sorry i forgot how to spell) i could relate to him a lot.
KatyaS More than 1 year ago
It usually takes a lot of begging to get my son to read and with this book we did not have to beg. He would read a chapter and then tell us something funny in it. He really enjoyed reading it.
Anonymous 4 days ago
I love it
Anonymous 10 months ago
Rip off
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great story that teaches you that everyone is GOOD inside. Love all the Joey Pigza books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Congrats! If you read the other review you know that im writing bad reviews on every joey pigza book just for it having a girls nose chopped off. This book is wack.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
What if the key was a tiny human? I know, I have a sick mindi.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
People say best book ever and give it 3-4 stars, and people who say it was a little good and a little boring give it 5 stars!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is briliount:-):-):-):-):-)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was awful. My teacher read it to my class once and i hated it. Do not waste your money!