Sunday, May 3, 2009

Joey Pigza Loses Control

Gantos, Jack. 2000. JOEY PIGZA LOSES CONTROL. Canada: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd. ISBN 03743999891

JOEY PIGZA LOSES CONTROL is about a boy named Joey, who is hyperactive and is taking medication for the problem, and he is going to live with his father for summer. His mother is apprehensive about this visit because she knows that Carter, Joey’s dad, is a grown up version of Joey with his own problems that need to be handled. Throughout the summer Joey gains the affection of his father by being the star player of the baseball team but this new found relationship tests Joey on what he believes in. The last half of the book is Joey without his medication and the trouble he gets himself into.

According to the textbook definition of contemporary realistic fiction a book should feel current, and could happen it today’s world. This could not be a better definition for JOEY PIGZA LOSES CONTROL because the book deals with issues of divorce, attention deficit disorder, medication, family struggles, and young children. The main character Joey goes through an emotional battle throughout this book that many young kids can identify with. At the start of the novel Joey is hoping that he can bring his parents back together once his dad sees how well behaved he is now that he is on medication. He tries so hard to get the love and respect from his father that he makes decision that he knows is wrong but will please his dad. Carter, Joey’s fathers, is a complex character that is hyperactive, an alcoholic, possible abusive, and delusional. I love the fact that Carter has his life changing moment at a park called Storybook Land in front of the Humpty Dumpty exhibit. Gantos uses this illustration to show how child like and immature Carter is at this point in his life. “I didn’t want to be a pathetic broken egg with everyone trying and failing to put me back together again.”

Most of the book takes place in Carter’s home or locations around his small town, storybook land, the golf course, mall, baseball fields, and the sporting goods store. The baseball fields are where the climax of the story takes place when Joey has finally had enough of Carter’s yelling and high expectations. “Don’t disappoint me, Joey. Don’t be a Humpty Dumpty on me and crack up.” Another very interesting scene that takes place in the story is at the mall when Joey’s medication has worn off and the reader sees first hand how different Joey is when he doesn’t have medicine. As Joey is walking around the mall he finds a few mannequins that look like “perfect” kids and there is nothing more that Joey wants then besides to be normal. So he dresses up in beach outfits and goes and stands next to the mannequins waiting for someone to spy him and think he is perfect too.

Ganots writing is simple, clear and believable. There are times when the book is quite funny, such as Joey covering himself in shaving cream to try to scare his grandmother. Other times the mood of the book is dark, sad, and depressing. Although this story could happen in the real world I was sad to read an unhappy ending for Joey and his father. I guess the reader can be satisfied in the fact that Joey at least finds out where he was from and who he is going to be in his future. My honest impression of the book is that is gives readers a real life look at a modern day family of divorce but you will end the book disappointed.

*Publishers Weekly- “Like its predecessor, this high-voltage, honest novel mixes humor, pain, fear and courage with deceptive ease. Struggling to please everyone even as he sees himself hurtling toward disaster, Joey emerges as a sympathetic hero, and his heart of gold never loses its shine.”
*Children’s Literature- “Gantos' writing excellence shows in the way he allows the reader to draw conclusions, while Joey only experiences situations. Gantos still gives us what we love best about Joey—neither medicine nor a bad situation can take away his comic responses. This artist has created a satisfying follow-up.”
*Kirkus Reviews- “As if Joey didn't get into enough trouble in his unforgettable debut, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (1998), Gantos has him wig out again in this sad, scary, blackly funny sequel. His hyperactivity under control thanks to new meds, Joey is looking forward to a six-week stay with his father Carter, hoping for some bonding. Unfortunately, his mother's warning: ". . . he can be, you know, wired like you, only he's bigger." understates the case.”
*Newberry Honor Book

*Read the other books from Jack Gantos about Joey Pigza:
-WHAT WOULD JOEY DO? ISBN 9780060544034
-I AM NOT JOEY PIGZA. ISBN 9780374399412
*Allow students to listen to one of the novels on an audio book.
*Discuss with students the many conflict that Joey faced in the story, and have students write in their journal a time when they faced conflict and how did they resolve it.
*Students can take online quiz about their comprehension of the book:

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