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.