I’ve been thinking a lot about Joey Pigza these days. If you don’t know who is, you are missing out on perhaps the most endearing character in all of modern children’s literature. Joey’s desire to do the right thing despite his inability to do so is all too familiar. His sympathetic understanding of his parents’ alcoholism and grandmother’s cruelty can break your heart.
It’s hard to read Joey. His life is hard, his little ADD body won’t get with the program, and he longs to make it all right without ever having those desires truly met. Reviewers note the difficulty of reading the book:
Stepping into Joey Pigza’s skin isn’t easy . . .But it’s worth the discomforting fit. –Deirdre Donahue, USA Today
Joey tells his own story, and it reads like a ride in a car without brakes.
–Sue Corbett, Knight Ridder News Service
As Jeff and I read the first book aloud to the boys, we would catch each other’s eye and sigh. Maybe all parents of boys can relate to raising a Joey, but for us it was like imagining our sons – with all of their gifts and burdens – living in a chaotic, almost traumatic environment. But it was also like imagining what it would be like to hear aloud their longings to be good, to see the best in the people they have to trust to survive, and to believe in a future made right. For their part, the boys were riveted to the book, like they were being let in on strictly guarded grown-up stuff.. Rarely have they sat so still for a book.
So I’m going to order the entire series and read them with the boys, starting by rereading the first one. I’ll check in occasionally to let you know how it’s going.
Here’s an idea: Why don’t you read them too, and then we can have a virtual Joey Pigza book club! Leave a comment below so I can get a sense of whether we should try it or not.
Note: If you are thinking about reading it to your kids, please be aware that the reviews say that it is appropriate for ages nine and up, and most of the lesson plans are for fourth and fifth grade. We thought it was okay for a six and seven year old, especially since we were reading it together, but our judgement isn’t always the best. Have I mentioned that we took our kids out of perfectly fine school and are trying to teach them at home?