Joey Pigza, Book 1: Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

Joey Pigza, Book 1:  Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

Joey Pigza is a good kid. He tries really hard, but there's something wrong with his brain. He can't sit still. He can't concentrate on anything for too long. His grandmother says he is tightly wound, just like her and his father. And try as Joey might, nothing seems to be going right.

But new school year, new opportunity -- right? For Joey, things start off looking up. His mother returns after years away, determined to care for him. His teacher gives him a clean slate and a chance to prove himself. However, it doesn't take long for things to go wrong. His mother gets him new medication that seems to help him concentrate, but when it wears off in the afternoon, Joey is back to his old self.

Unable to pay attention, he swallows his house key during a lesson. He loses control while on a field trip and seriously puts himself in danger. However, when he accidentally injures a fellow student, he is sent for six weeks to a special education school that aims to help Joey and his mother work on his challenges. The story, told in Joey's sweet, matter of fact voice, hints at alcoholism and abuse and yet still manages to be bright and hopeful. Everyone knows a kid like Joey, and this story is a wonderful glimpse into their world.

160 pages 978-1250061683 Ages 9-13

Keywords: differently wired, ADHD, acceptance, accepting others, understanding others, being included, being yourself, belonging, Character Building Curriculum, part of a series, family, grandmother, individuality, 9 year old, 10 year old, 11 year old, 12 year old, 13 year old

Recommended by Jamequa Summerall, Librarian, Maryland USA


"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 hyper-activity and related disorders. This title has Common Core connections.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key is a 1998 National Book Award Finalist for Young People's Literature.--from the publisher

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