The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza

The Key Swallowed Joey9780374300838_p0_v1_s260x420The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza

Jack Gantos, Author

Farrar Straus Giroux, Fiction, Sep. 2, 2014

Pages: 154

Suitable for Ages: 10-14

Themes: ADD/ADHD, Family Relationships, Dysfunctional Families

Opening: 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.

Book Jacket Synopsis: Just months after the birth of his baby brother, Carter Junior, everything goes topsy-turvy all over again for wired Joey Pigza. With his dad missing in the wake of appearance-altering plastic surgery, and his mom suddenly absent, Joey has no choice but to become man of the house. For this heroic and hilarious boy, playing dad to little Junior is a challenge that gets harder by the moment, even after an old friend arrives to lend a hand. But then the real man of the house comes out of hiding, and Joey is full of hope that he has found the key to help his shattered family — even though he knows that when it comes to the Pigzas, the future could not be more unpredictable.

What I love about this book:

  • Joey Pigza is back in this fifth and final book of Jack Gantos’ multi-award winning and heart-rendering series. It is filled with the same crazy humor of a boy who faces the toughest challenges ever with his emotionally charged and dysfunctional family. Fans will continue to cheer and love this hero for trying to keep his broken family together.
  • Gantos writes the best first-page openings that hook the reader from the start. He takes them on a complicated journey that is action-packed and engaging. His mother, who’s suffering from postpartum depression, checks herself into a hospital and leaves Joey to care for and protect his baby brother from his hyperactive father, who plots to kidnap Carter Jr.  Readers will keep turning pages until they have finished the book.
  • The characters are memorable. Gantos skillfully gets to the core of each one. Joey shows maturity as he takes his medicine for ADHD,  thinks before he acts, is thoughtful, manages to make the right decisions and be a “pawzzz-i-tive” force for the good of his family. Olivia, “the meanest blind girl in the whole world,” reappears in this story after she is suspended from her blind school. She hides out at the Pigza house — lucky for Joey she has a soft spot for babies. Her presence adds some comic relief.
  • I am completely invested in this series and am thrilled that Gantos brought Joey’s story to an unpredictable and satisfying conclusion. In fact Joey may be the most sane member of the Pigza family. Fans will cheer and love this hero for his triumphant efforts to keep his broken family together. This book may indeed be the darkest in the series.

Resources: Visit Jack Gantos website and download a study guide for The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza.  You can also check out my earlier review of the other Joey Pigza books in the series.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

20 thoughts on “The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza

  1. I am a huge fan of this series, too. Joey is such a great character–I agree probably the most sane person in his family. I love all the books in the series, but the first, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, I think is especially masterfully done–one of those books to be studied as an author. I particularly love how the cadence of the writing changes with the state of Joey’s ADHD. I love knowing that you are also a fan.

    • Nice to meet another fan. Loved your points. Have you ever listened to the video where Gantos talks about the years he spent writing and rewriting to master his skill. It certainly is seen in this series. I read the first books years ago, so thank you for pointing out how the cadence of writing changes as Joey improves.

  2. Jack Gantos is one of my favorite authors. His characters bring authentic, rich voices to every scene. Joey Pigza is a great character with heart and I too loved this final story.

    • Isn’t he great! I read this series years ago and was thrilled to read the sequel. You are so right, the voices are rich, realistic and authentic. He has grown so much through the series!

  3. I need to start reading the series. I bought the first book for my kids but I’ve never read it yet. I think I will love Gantos’ writing style. He was on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me once and was hilarious!

  4. I am a Pigza fan, too, or really I am a fan of the skill of Gantos as a writer. All the books I have read of his are page-turners and characters I am completely invested in.

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