Gantos, J. (2000). Joey Pigza Loses Control. New York: HarperTrophy.
Joey’s back and he’s facing a new challenge: Meeting his father for the first time and visiting his difficult grandma, whose health is declining.
This book deals more deeply with issues only touched on the first book: The results of a lifetime of smoking, parental alcoholism, the need for ADHD medication, parental pressure, the desire for a united family, etc. Also, this book may appeal to sports fans, since Joey spends a lot of time playing baseball while visiting his father in Pittsburgh. There are also fairytale elements to this story, since Joey’s father repeatedly uses fairytales as metaphors for his life.
What’s amazing about the second book in this series is how the reader’s perception changes of Joey’s mother. In the first book, I found myself wondering if Joey should be living with her. In the second book, when Joey visits his father, I found myself pleading, “Please, please, PLEASE send him back to his mother!”
Activities to do with the book:
This book can be used to have a number of conversations on visiting an absent parent, realizing parents make mistakes, the experience of being ADHD and needing medication, the health complications of smoking. And so on. If a teacher shares this book with a student or class, he or she must be certain to show sympathy for Joey and encourage personal response to the narrative.
If students have read the first book, a teacher could ask how their views of the characters have shifted. Do they feel more sympathetic toward Joey, his mother and grandmother?
Since the story ends rather abruptly, students could write a continuation of the story, letters to Joey and his family members or just go on to read the next book.
“That’s the one thing I liked about [my father] already. [Mom’s] mind was on him, him, him. Usually it was on me, me, me, and I couldn’t do or say anything that she didn’t notice, but now I was hiding inside his shadow like a drop inside an ocean, and he got to take the blame for her bad nerves” (p. 7).
JOEY’S MOTHER: “I’m sending you because you might like [your dad] and because I think—not with my heart—that it’s a good thing for you to have a relationship with your father. And now that he claims to have stopped drinking and has a job and has gone to court to get some visitation. I’m sending you to him because I think it’s the right thing to do” (p. 8).
“My patch is not a drug,” I pleased. “It’s medicine” (p. 93).