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.

Learning to Feel Good and Stay Cool

Learning to Feel Good9781433813436_p0_v1_s260x420Learning to Feel Good and Stay Cool: Emotional Regulations Tools for Kids with AD/HD

Judith M. Glasser, PhD and Kathleen Nadeau, PhD

Charles Bey, Illustrator

Magination Press, Nonfiction, 2014

Suitable for Ages: 6-11

Themes: ADHD, Emotions, Self-control, Tools for kids

Book Jacket Synopsis“Did you know that there are things you can do every day to help you feel better more often? It’s true! Packed with practical advice and fun activities, this book will show you how to: understand your emotions; practice healthy habits to stay in your Feel Good Zone; know the warning signs that you are heading into your Upset Zone; feel better when you get upset; and problem-solve so upsets come less often.”  

Why I like this book: Judith M. Glasser and Kathleen Nadeau have written this book for children using language they easily understand.  But, it is an excellent book for parents to read with their children. It can also be used as a guide by school counselors who work with kids. It is an upbeat book with a lot of practical information and tools that kids with ADHD can use to understand their feelings, learn tools to manage and regulate their emotions and behavior, and become more emotionally independent.  The authors suggest that parents read the book one chapter at a time with their child to give them the opportunity to integrate ideas and put them into daily practice.  Although the book targets children, I think it would be helpful for older kids (tweens) who can read it on their own.  I especially enjoyed Charles Bey’s entertaining cartoons added humor to the book.

Resources: The book is a stand-alone resource. And there are individual front pages from the author for parents and children, as well as back pages filled with resources for parents and counselors.

Kwirky: The Kid Detective with a Different Perspective

Kwirky9781493598663_p0_v3_s260x420Kwirky: The Kid Detective with a Different Perspective

Russell Kane, Author

Sarah Beth Ryder, Illustrator

CreateSpace, Fiction, Oct. 31, 2013

Suitable for Ages: 7-11

Themes: ADHD, Differences, Abilities, Kid detective

Book Jacket Synopsis: Fifth grader Daniel Kwirk is known around Duckworth Elementary School as “Kwirky” because he thinks and acts differently than most kids his age.  His Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) causes him to be a bit clumsy, not pay attention and have way too much energy for certain occasions. But Daniel has so much more to offer than what people give him credit.  He is intelligent, perceptive and always wants to do the right thing. These attributes help Daniel, with the help of his younger sister Hayley, find clues to discover the theft of valuable gold and silver coins at the local Civil War exhibit and help police track down the culprits. Daniel’s unconventional approach to everyday life proves to be extremely useful as only someone with Daniel’s unique perspective could have cracked this case.

Why I like this book:  Russell Kane’s delivers a very positive message about ADHD to his young readers. His book is a fun and quick read. The characters are relatable. The plot is easy to follow. Kane names his character Daniel Kwirk, thus allowing him to use “quirkiness” as a theme that shows Daniel’s strength rather than his inability. Daniel is able to see beyond the obvious facts and demonstrates his talents to his friends, classmates and entire community.  This is a book of celebration of differences and abilities. Sarah Beth Ryder’s illustrations are cartoons that are fun and add to the story.  Readers will cheer for Daniel!

Resources: The author has a “Discussion Questions” at the end of the book for parents and teachers to use in the classroom.

Harmonic Feedback by Tara Kelly

Harmonic Feedback9780805090109_p0_v1_s260x420Harmonic Feedback

Tara Kelly, Author

Henry Holt and Company, YA Fiction, 2010

Suitable for ages: 14 – 18

Themes: Asperger’s Syndrome, Friendship, Music, Emotional Problems, Drug Abuse

Synopsis:  Sixteen-year-old Drea knows what it feels like to be an outsider.  Her mother is once again moving Drea to another town and school — this time to her grandmother’s  home in Bellingham, WA.  Drea also is diagnosed with ADHD and a mild form of Asperger’s syndrome. The last thing she wants is to be labeled.  Life isn’t easy and she finds the world confusing.  Her real desire is to just make sense to herself.  Drea is intelligent, musically gifted and passionate about sound design.  She meets two other outsiders, free-spirited Naomi, who flirts with drugs and danger, and Justin, who is persistent and may even like Drea. They share her love of music and form a rock band.  For the first time in her life Drea finds two true friends who accept and care about her.  But, as in many relationships there will be joy, pain, grief and hope.

Why I like this book:  A debut novel for Tara Kelly, Harmonic Feedback is a brilliant and complex book about finding your way in a world that doesn’t always make sense to you.  It is both uplifting and tragic as Drea makes her first-ever friends.  Tara delves deeply into the thoughts and feelings of Drea so that you really experience her world.  Naomi and Justin are stand-out characters, each struggling with their own challenges.  The plot is strong making this story a real page-turner. In writing Harmonic Feedback, Tara was clear that her novel “is not about defining Asperger’s syndrome or ADHD.”   It is a story about the turmoil of teenagers trying to figure out their lives.  It is a book that teens will relate to.  After all, who hasn’t felt like an outsider.  Make sure you read the author’s back pages. Visit Tara Kelly at her website and learn more about her recent novel Amplified.  Tara is a one-girl band, writer, filmmaker, video editor, and digital photographer.

ADHD in HD: Brains Gone Wild

ADHD in HD9781575423869_p0_v1_s260x420ADHD in HD: Brains Gone Wild

Jonathan Chesner, Author

Free Spirit Publishing,  Non-fiction, April 2012

Suitable for: Teens and Young Adults

Themes:  ADHD, Special Brains, Abilities, Relationships with Family and Friends,  School and Homework, Interactions with Co-workers

Opening/Book Jacket Synopsis:  “From an early age, Jonathan knew he had the kind of brain that would wear a Hawaiian shirt, bright red pants, and cool painted shoes to a wedding while most other people’s brains would wear three-piece suits. He also knew that if he learned how to manage the difficulties of ADHD and harness its awesome powers, he would help other “special brains” by sharing this knowledge in a book to slay all other books.

This is that book. If people say you’re always distracted, but you can spend hours zoned in on something you love, this book is for you. And if you’re coping with homework or haters or schedules or meds, this book is definitely for you. Read how to do big things, follow your dreams, and be like Mr. T.”

Why I like this book:  This book stands above anything I have read on the ADHD.  Jonathan Chesner has written one of the most creative, entertaining and inspirational books for teens and young adults with ADHD. The cartoon-like artwork is expressive, bold, outrageous and hilarious. There were times when I laughed until I cried. It is the kind of book I wished I could  have  handed to my daughter when she was a teen. It is so upbeat and uplifting. It focuses on the special brains ADHD kids and all the positive things they can do. No room for negativity in this book – only possibilities. Chesner, who was diagnosed at age 9,  shares his own personal stories of failure and successes. He offers many tips on how to carry out things that don’t come easy. Chesner gives advice about interacting with families and friends, finding the best way to learn at school and complete homework, dating, getting a job, connecting with peers and co-workers, and eating the right diet. Chesner says “that ADHD isn’t all that bad — it can actually be a blessing in disguise.”

Chesner is an actor appearing in commercials and television shows such as Veronica Mars and Bones. While attending college, he turned his off-campus apartment into an art studio/art gallery/surfboard shaping room/T-shirt factory. Major surf companies including Von Zipper and Future Fins have incorporated his conceptual work. You may visit Jonathan Chesner at his website.  View his great video below!

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This book has been provided to me free of charge by the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the work.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key – ADD/ADHD

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, written by Jack Gantos as a YA book for kids 10 yrs. and older.   This is the first in a series of four books about a boy who is a handful.  Brilliantly written from Joey’s viewpoint, Gantos captures with great authenticity Joey’s out-of-control world with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).   Joey opens the story commenting,  “At school they say I’m wired bad, or wired mad, or wired sad, or wired glad, depending on my mood.”  Although he takes “dud” medications in the morning, by lunch time they wear off.   Joey feels like there is little he can do to keep himself from bouncing out of his chair.  This leads to big trouble and a lot of time outs.

Gantos takes you on a roller coaster of a journey inside the mind,  feelings and actions of Joey, who is reared in a dysfunctional family.   Joey’s intentions are good, but he ends up swallowing his house key,  disrupts his class daily,  ruins a field trip, hurts himself when he sticks his finger in an electric pencil sharpener, and accidentally injures a classmate.   He is sent to a special-education program where he is evaluated.   This book is both heartbreaking  and humorous, as Joey attempts to hold his world together.  It certainly is a page turner.  You can’t help but love Joey and want to cheer for him as he tries to gain control over his world.  Gantos has a gift of getting into the core of his characters.  His book won the National Books Awards and are in their second and third printings.  I highly recommend this book for any child with ADD or ADHD, parents and teachers.  A great discussion book to use in a classroom.

Joey Pigza Loses Control, the second in a series by Jack Gantos for kids around the 5th grade.   I found myself so invested in the first book, I had to find out what happened to Joey.   Joey’s medications are finally administered by a patch, and we find him beginning to find his way.  He is more  self-confident, respectful,  focused, thinks before acting and feels better about himself.  Until, his father appears on the scene and wants Joey to spend the summer with him.  Mom isn’t happy, but decides that Joey needs to get to know his father.   Dad is a baseball coach, and Joey turns out to be an outstanding pitcher.  What Joey soon discovers is that his father  is more wired and out of control than he is.   His father feels that Joey needs to deal with his hyperactivity like a man, and takes away his patches.

Once again, Gantos takes the reader through another page turning book, and Joey’s journey becomes more interesting and complicated.   Joey begins to  feel himself spin out of control without his medication.   His hyperactive father wants Joey to be manly about handling himself, so he takes him on a reckless course of bungee jumping and teaching him to drive a car, when he can’t see over the dashboard.  However, Joey has learned some  tools to keep everything together for as long as he possibly can.   Will Joey succumb, or make the right decisions for himself?

It is very tempting to review all four books, but I don’t want to give away Joey’s remarkable journey.  There is a third and a fourth book in the series:  What Would Joey Do  and I Am Not Joey Pigza.

Information for Parents:  Some studies estimate that 1.7 percent of children have ADHD, while others claim the number may be closer to 26 percent.   The Journal of the American Medical Association says that ADHD ” is among the most common neurodevelopmental disorder in children.”   Boys are affected three times as often as girls.  Sometimes ADHD is accompanied with a learning disability.  There are organizations available to help both children and adults with ADHD.  They focus on possible causes, symptoms, treatment, support and coaching.    CHADD is an excellent resource.