Though the fifth in the series of stories from Jack Gantos about Joey Pigza, The Key that Swallowed Joey Pigza reads well as a standalone story.
Joey Pigza, a memorable character with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and frequently ‘wired’ when off his meds narrates the story. Joey finds himself in charge of caring for baby brother Carter Junior when his mother can no longer cope with her postnatal depression and checks herself into hospital. As if this and a cockroach infestation weren’t enough to deal with Joey’s absent father, resembling Frankenstein’s monster after facial surgery, seems determined to snatch Carter Junior to start a new life together.
The cast of characters also include Joey’s blind girlfriend Olivia, often around to help (or hinder when she temporarily loses the baby). Olivia is a misfit like Joey and he is very fond of her despite the fact she is easily annoyed and often whacks him with her stick.
The story tells of Joey’s struggles to keep his promise to his mother to keep Carter Junior safe, make amends with his father, find a way to bring the Pigza family back together and along the way find the goodness deep inside him.
An engaging story about love, loyalty, responsibility and self-belief told with humour and sensitivity. The light hearted cover design belies the range of issues the book addresses through the main character’s difficult experiences. Fans of Joey Pigza will be sorry to learn this is the last in the series.