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I think we all know someone like Joey Pigza, the title character in this moving, warm glimpse into a boy's life.

Book Review: Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

I think we all know someone like Joey Pigza, the title character in this moving, warm glimpse into a boy’s life.

Let’s let Joey introduce himself, as he does at the book’s start, and you will see what I mean:

At school they say I’m wired bad, or wired mad, or wired sad, or wired glad, depending on my mood and what teacher has ended up with me. But there is no doubt about it, I’m wired.

This year was no different. When I started out all the days there looked about the same. In the morning I’d be okay and follow along in class. But after lunch, when my meds had worn down, it was nothing but trouble for me.

One day, we were doing math drills in class and every time Mrs. Maxy asked a question, like “What’s nine times nine?” I’d raise my hand because I’m really quick at math. But each time she called on me, even though I knew the answer, I’d just blurt out, “Can I get back to you on that?” Then I’d nearly fall out of my chair from laughing. And she’d give me that white-lipped look which meant, “Settle down.” But I didn’t and kept raising my hand each time she asked a question until finally no other kid would raise their hand because they knew what was coming between me and Mrs. Maxy.

Writing a book from the perspective of a boy with Attention Deficit Disorder is a daunting task. It would be hard not to fall into the trap of being too syrupy, too trite and to avoid all the stereotypes. But author Jack Gantos walks the mine field carefully and pulls it off perfectly. And just when you think you understand Joey enough that nothing he says or does will surprise you, he will have a moment of great insight and will say something powerful that blows you away.[ADBLOCKHERE]

This book makes me think about The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time, another novel I recommend to those wanting insights into students with special needs.

Both books are written from the perspective of a student with problems, though in Curious Incident the student is autistic and older than Joey. The two books also share the same strengths and weaknesses. The authors do a good job of making you feel like you are in the students’ heads and the reader can better grasp why they do what they do.

They also both have unrealistic plot twists. But to me any plot weaknesses are more than made up for the strength of the character development. If you get halfway through this book and you don’t feel a connection with Joey then you better call a hospital because it means your heart is missing.

About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.

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