Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is a strange combination of hilarious, serious, and deeply disturbing. I've had a few people recommend it to me, and I knew it was about a kid with ADHD, but that's about all I knew about it. It started out really funny, and my son loved it.
As it went on, I started to wonder if it was a bit much for a third grader. My son didn't really 'get' some of the disturbing scenes--he didn't understand why I said it was a sad book. But then, he said he thought the grandma was a good grandma and that having a timeout in a refrigerator would be 'cool.' Everything was presented in such a light, matter-of-fact way that it made the abuses this kid suffered even more horrifying. And I think it makes them sort of easy for a kid to overlook or not take seriously.
The characters in this book were loveable and hateable and very relate-able. I loved Joey, although I'm not going to lie and say I'd want Joey for a son or a student. But he's completely loveable, and nuts, and so freaking sad. He'd been through so much, and it was so believable that it broke my heart. I absolutely adored his teacher and his mom, too. She'd made mistakes, and in a way, the abuses he suffered were partially her fault for leaving him, although she didn't know what he was living with while she was gone. But his mom was also doing the right thing, and she was so good with Joey, exactly what he needed. It was hard not to love her, despite her shortcomings in the past, because she was so real and she'd tried so hard to turn her life around and be there for her son. And not just that, but she was doing a pretty amazing job at it. Better than I'd do with that kid, no matter how loveable, that's for sure.
Content: 10+ for some physical and emotional abuse and themes.
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