Monday, December 15, 2014

ADD father leads ADD son into the land of manic craziness

Gantos, Jack (2000) Joey Pigza Loses Control  New York:  Scholastic

There are three sorts of people who should read Joey Pigza Loses Control if they haven't yet. The last group is the biggest.  
Group number 1.  If you have Attention Deficit Disorder or another learning difference that makes you feel like you are some time out of sync with the rest of the world, this novel will remind you that you are not alone.  Joey Pigza has a pretty severe case of ADD which he keeps under control with medication.  It is summer vacation though, and Joey is going to spend a couple of weeks with his dad and his grandma.  Joey would rather stay with his mom, but everyone agrees it is a good idea.  At first, things seem okay.  It is good to get to know his Dad, whom Joey hasn't seen much since the divorce.  It gets even better when Joey's Dad asks Joey if he would like to play on the team his dad coaches.  But then Joey notices his dad is still drinking (he was supposed to have stopped) and his dad starts suggesting that joey doesn't need his Ritalin patches.  Soon things start to spiral out of control. 
Group number 2.  If you have a child or a friend or a student who has Attention Deficit Disorder or a similar learning difference, this book will help you understand what goes on inside such a person's mind.  There are things that Joey does that, when you see things from his perspective, make perfect sense at the time -- but when he has to explain to someone why he put his dog in the glove compartment, or why he drew fake Ritalin patches all over himself, the simple explanation suddenly gets a lot more complicated. 
Group number 3.  The largest group of people who will want to read this story are those who like to read good and interesting stories.  Jack Gantos does a great job of brining his readers so deeply into the story that Joey's struggles become theirs and the story grips us until the end -- even if it isn't a thrillers tory with machine guns and explosions and arch enemies.  Joey's everyday life becomes as gripping as a mystery novel.
This book is probably most appropriate for fourth through eighth graders.  Teachers should know that Joey's dad drinks alcohol when he knows he shouldn't, that Joey's grandma smokes constantly, even through she is on oxygen -- but that Joey realizes these things are wrong.  I doubt any parent who reads the whole book would object to it -- but if they only make it halfway, you could have a challenge on your hands. 
Bottom line:  check it out.    

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