Sunday, February 15, 2009

REVIEW: Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

Gantos, J. (1998). Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key. New York: HarperTrophy.


The first in a series, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key follows Joey at school and at home as he struggles with his energy and impulse highs and lows. Underneath Joey’s multiple accidents in which he injures himself and even another is a well-intentioned boy who wants to get better.

The possible reasons for why Joey is the way he is are multiple and emerge as the reader continues through the text. Some of the hinted possible reasons include genetics, abuse at the hands of his grandmother, absentee parents, diet, etc.

The narrative includes some gross details (including Joey swallowing his house key multiple times) that will probably entertain younger readers more than they did me.

Activities to do with the book:

Joey’s strong voice makes this is a wonderful book to use to encourage students to take on the perspective of another. This book encourages discussions over emotional and physical abuse, lack of control, special education, compassion, forgiveness and getting help.

This would also be a book to use for reflective journal writing or for ‘child in role’ exercises in which the student pretends to be a character from the book and answer questions.

Favorite Quotes

“At school they say I’m wired bad, or wired man, 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” (p. 3).

“You gotta face the hand you’re dealt and deal with it, and make your problems be the smallest part of who you are” (p. 148).

“You know, Joey, the medication has helped you settle down, but you have been a good kid all along. You are naturally good. I hope you know that about yourself. You have a good heart” (p. 153).

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