The final title in the saga that includes the Newbery Honor book Joey Pigza Loses Control finds the hero flustered by his parent's questionable reunion and his ailing grandmother's efforts to push Joey to make friends. Ages 10-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 4-8-Joey's back, and this time he's not doing as much of the "weird Joey stuff" as usual. Now that he's ready to be "Mr. Helpful," it seems that everyone around him needs more help than he can give. His mom and dad have crazy fights involving motorcycle crashes, kidnapped Chihuahuas, and a restraining order. Joey's new homeschool partner is Olivia, a blind girl who earns the title of "Mistress of All Evil," and whose fundamentalist mother teaches them. And Grandma, the person who best understands Joey, is dying. The boy's first-person narration is as frenetically fun as it was in the first two books. Here, though, his energy and insights are turned more on those around him, and he turns out to be terrifically perceptive. His observations are totally believable because he vividly recalls (and sometimes still indulges in) dysfunctional behavior. His ability to connect with several diversely troubled personalities sets up many humorous scenes. A convoluted, but oddly logical scheme involving Olivia, Grandma, and tickets to Godspell culminates in the boy's touching (and very funny) first date. By book's end, Joey has lost a loved one, but he has gained enough confidence, and even wisdom, to look out for himself without letting his external problems overwhelm him or hold him back. Readers who don't know Joey will have no trouble jumping right in with this book, and those who have met him in the previous books will enjoy the way "Mr. Helpful" tries to set things right in a chaotic and uniquely amusing world.-Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Clad in black leather, Carter Pigza motorcycles into town like some mad vampire on the loose, with Mrs. Pigza chasing after him with a broom, looking like a witch about to take flight. Grandma huffs on the tube from her oxygen tank, threatening to shrivel into a zombie and haunt Joey for eternity. Moreover, Joey’s only friend happens to be the baddest blind girl in town. Welcome to Joey’s world. Hard to believe that Joey is the almost-normal one in this third and last installment in the chronicles of Joey Pigza. With his med patches, Joey has gotten better, but nobody else has. As in Joey Pigza Loses Control (2000), Humpty Dumpty is a powerful metaphor. In a world of untogether peoplelike Humpty after his fallJoey wants to be together, even the one to make the whole world better. But it’s a hard thing for a boy with problems of his own to be in charge of keeping house, family, and hope from being blown to smithereens. Images of monsters, allusions to fairy tale characters, and sparkling similes make for a wild tale. However, it’s not just a funny story with nutty parents out of control, it’s a poignant story of family, loss, lessons learned, and one boy’s learning to make his way in the world with confidence and good cheer. This work easily stands by itself, but readers new to Joey Pigza will rush out to get the others, too. A must read. (Fiction. 10+)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books Starred
Joey isn't leading the easiest of lives, but he's a tough and triumphant kid with an absorbing story.
Knight Ridder News Service Sue Corbett
In Joey Pigza, Mr. Gantos has meticulously crafted the voice of a troubled kid with a solid center of goodness. Joey tells his own story, and it reads like a ride in a car without brakes.
The Boston Sunday Globe Liz Rosenberg
Joey . . . is an impossible, contradictory, glorious creation.
USA Today Deirdre Donahue
Stepping into Joey Pigza's skin isn't easy . . . But it's worth the discomforting fit.
Read an Excerpt
What Would Joey Do?
About three weeks ago Dad suddenly showed up in town and started buzzing us on his motorcycle at all hours of the day and night. At first I was afraid because I thought he had come to get me, but I was wrong. He was much more interested in Mom. I lost track of how many times he roared down our street and ran the corner traffic light past Quips Pub, where Mom lounged in the leather window seat sipping a mixed drink with her new boyfriend while making plans for her future. Dad must have spotted her there during one of his rounds. He didn't say anything, but he'd look at her in the window like she was something he wanted. Then, he'd blast off. If it was dark out, I could look through my back bedroom window and between the lines of damp laundry catch his single jittery headlight brightly striking the white marble tombstones lined up like crooked teeth behind our yard as he cut through St. Mary's Cemetery and raced out and around the neighborhood making a crazy eight before he looped back down Plum Street and past our house again. He must have been watching her closely because sometimes he'd show up the minute she got home from work. Then, her face would go red and I'd watch her run out to the front porch and yell at him as he raced by, but the louder she yelled the louder he revved the engine.
"I'm losing my patience with that man," Mom would say when she came back inside, pacing wildly up the hall, swinging around and down again, past the furniture and me and Pablo and Grandma, as if she too were on a motorcycle that was darting past us.
"If you didn't yell at him I bet he'd get bored and go home," I said once while trying to be helpful.
"He'd better return to the hole he lives in," she said, "or I'll send him into the next kingdom."
"Just ignore him," I advised. "It'll drive him nuts."
"And I'll go nuts if I don't yell at him," she replied.
I knew Dad. Yelling at him was only going to make him want to yell back twice as loud. The only way Mom could be louder than him was to be quiet. He couldn't stand to be ignored and Mom couldn't stand to be quiet, so I knew something bad was on the way. I could feel it coming, just as I could hear his motorcycle circling.
And then it finally happened. We were out on the front porch late one afternoon.
I was squatted down behind a wooden railing, holding my dog Pablo and peeking out between the slats, while Mom was on the top step hollering at Dad. The muffler on his motorcycle was dragging across the asphalt and a steady stream of sparks trailed behind him like the lighted fuse on a bomb that was headed right at our house. He looked like a giant black bat in his studded leather biker outfit with his hands raised up in the air on his chopper handlebars and his shiny blue-eyed wraparound sunglasses clamped tight against his bony face. He had already circled our block about ten times in a row and each time he got a little closer to the house, as if he were zeroing in on a target. He was really flying and when he reached our yard he jerked up on his handlebars and lifted his front wheel over the stone curb. When his back wheel hit the curb the rear of the chopper bounced up and almost catapulted him forward. Still, he hung on and landed with a smack back in his seat as he fishtailed across the sidewalk and headed straight for the porch.
But Mom was waiting for him, and she was ready for a fight. As soon as he jumped the curb she sprang forward and bolted down the porch stairs with a broom held up over her head as if she would swat him like a biker vampire who had come to suck our blood. But when she reached the bottom stair and leaped forward he stuck out his leg with a huge, nasty boot on the end of it and without flinching knocked her back on her butt as he turned and roared across our rutted dirt yard and toward the street. She bounced just once and flattened out like something heavy dropped from the roof as he laughed, or cursed, or announced his return -- I couldn't tell which because of the engine noise, and with Mom's yelling and Pablo's yapping in my ear, I couldn't hear anything clearly. Then, as he flew off the yard, his muffler hit the curb and suddenly there was an explosion of sparks like a comet smashing into the earth, only it was his muffler flipping into the air and spinning like a pinwheel, showering the street with sparks. Instantly the engine noise was a hundred times louder and I had to drop Pablo to cover my ears as Dad snarled down to the end of the block where he turned right and I could hear him open the throttle along the straightaway and rattle the windows across the neighborhood, across all of Lancaster, maybe the whole state of Pennsylvania.
And then Mom scrambled to her feet and raised her fist in the air. "So you want to play dirty?" she hollered. "I'll show you what dirty is!" She charged up the porch stairs two at a time. "Outta my way," she panted, and rushed past me with her broom held forward like a witch about to launch herself.
"Are you okay?" I asked. "Are you hurt?"
"This time I'm gonna kill that creep," she promised with a murderous look on her face that made her words seem real to me. "I should've done it years ago and put him out of my misery."
I followed her into the house.
"I don't think you should kill him," I said, and held on to the back end of the broom. "He's just a nut."
"A dangerous pain-in-the-butt nut," she replied, and yanked the broom away. "He can't scare me, but I'm gonna make him pay for messing with you."
"Don't do it because of me," I said. "Just leave him alone and he'll go away."
"No, this time he has to pay."
"But he doesn't owe me anything," I pleaded. "Just lock the door and call the police." What Would Joey Do?. Copyright © by Jack Gantos. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.