Joey Pigza

I think a lot about Joey Pigza.

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 to this homeschooling mother of two “spirited” boys.  And 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 – who were six and seven at the time – 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.

Joey often comes to mind as we’re homeschooling.  And I found out that the third book in the series finds Joey doing just that.  I ordered the entire series, but haven’t read beyond the first book yet.  If you’ve read them, I’d love to hear what you think.

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. 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?


About Tara Edelschick

Right now, Tara is on sabbatical in Costa Rica. She is sleeping more, and exercising and flossing every day for the first time in her life. She is enjoying her husband, her boys, and Nafisa (the daughter she never had) more than she ever has. And she is learning to rest in the arms of the one who doesn't rank you based on how many things you can cross off your list at the end of the day. Follow her on Twitter@TaraWonders.