I Am Not Joey Pigza (Joey Pigza Books)

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9780739356289: I Am Not Joey Pigza (Joey Pigza Books)

“I’m a brand-new man with a brand-new plan.”

Joey Pigza is knocked for a loop when his good-for-nothing dad shows up on his doorstep as a recycled person. After a lucky lotto win, Carter Pigza truly believes he’s somebody else. He’s even renamed himself Charles Heinz–and he insists that Joey and his mother join his happy Heinz family plan.

“My head felt like it was full of bees, and they were busy in ways that were bad for me.”

Joey has little choice but to embrace a head-spinning series of changes, which include having to leave school to help out at the beat-up roadside diner his dad has purchased. But Joey is afraid that in going with the flow he will go over the falls and end up in a place far away from who he really is.

In this seriously comic new novel, Jack Gantos pushes his acclaimed hero into entirely new territory, where he wrestles with issues of identity and forgiveness, and teaches himself how to triple-flip a turkey burger while shouting out his new favorite phrase . . .

“Do you want fries with that?”

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About the Author:

Jack Gantos has written books for people of all ages, from picture books and middle-grade fiction to novels for young adults and adults. His works include Hole in My Life, a memoir that won the Michael L. Printz and Robert F. Sibert Honors, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, a National Book Award Finalist, Joey Pigza Loses Control, a Newbery Honor book, and Dead End in Norvelt, winner of the Newbery Medal and the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction.

 

Jack was raised in Norvelt, Pennsylvania, and when he was seven, his family moved to Barbados. He attended British schools, where there was much emphasis on reading and writing, and teachers made learning a lot of fun. When the family moved to south Florida, he found his new classmates uninterested in their studies, and his teachers spent most of their time disciplining students. Jack retreated to an abandoned bookmobile (three flat tires and empty of books) parked out behind the sandy ball field, and read for most of the day. The seeds for Jack’s writing career were planted in sixth grade, when he read his sister’s diary and decided he could write better than she could. He begged his mother for a diary and began to collect anecdotes he overheard at school, mostly from standing outside the teachers’ lounge and listening to their lunchtime conversations. Later, he incorporated many of these anecdotes into stories.

 

While in college, he and an illustrator friend, Nicole Rubel, began working on picture books. After a series of well-deserved rejections, they published their first book, Rotten Ralph, in 1976. It was a success and the beginning of Jack’s career as a professional writer. Jack continued to write children’s books and began to teach courses in children’s book writing and children’s literature. He developed the master’s degree program in children’s book writing at Emerson College and the Vermont College M.F.A. program for children’s book writers. He now devotes his time to writing books and educational speaking. He lives with his family in Boston, Massachusetts.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

I Am Not Joey Pigza
1EVERYBODY LOVES A WINNERYou know me. I always have to have something on my mind or something in my hands, otherwise my mind chases off in one direction and my hands go in another. This is how trouble starts for me, because if my mouth controls my mind and my hands control my body then I'm totally split in half and as my grandmother once said to me, "You are like a chicken with its head cut off.""I am not," I argued right back, puffing out my chest. "My head is screwed on!""Not for long," she snapped, and lunged at my neck with her bony fingers, but I was too fast and ran off.Granny didn't like to be wrong, and the next day she brought a live chicken home when Mom was at work and called me out to the backyard. "Watch this!" she said breathlessly as she flicked her cigarette towardSt. Mary's Cemetery, which bordered our backyard. She stepped on the chicken's neck and pressed it to the ground with her bare foot as she raised a hatchet up into the air. "What you see next is just what I'm warning you about."Then she brought the hatchet down."No!" I yelled, and gave her a push from the rear. Suddenly there was blood everywhere and I thought she had chopped her foot off, but it was only the chicken's head. Quickly, she set the headless chicken upright on the dirt and it took off running in circles with blood spurting from its neck until in a spastic moment it flew up and over our side fence and into the unfriendly neighbors' yard and around the far corner of their house. We didn't ever lay eyes on it again."See what I mean?" Granny ranted that evening when we smelled roast chicken coming from the neighbors' house while we were eating cold cereal. "When it comes to your head, you either use it or lose it."That night I slept with my head under the pillow. I didn't want to become someone's dinner, but my sneaky Chihuahua-mix dog, Pablo, dragged that chicken head out of the trash and onto my bed and gnawed on it for his dinner, and when I woke in the morning and saw the pulpy bits of it all ripped apart I threw up, which made a gross thing grosser because he abandoned the chicken head and began to eat mythrow-up, which made me throw up again and he wanted to eat that, too. Once, I asked the vet if Pablo could have a med patch like mine to make him less hyper, and the vet said his meds would be called "a cage."So anyway today I was walking home from school thinking about this Granny chicken business and wondering if I could make a headless chicken costume for Halloween next week, when I passed a box for a small Little Chef Boy refrigerator and it stopped me in my tracks. As strange as it sounds, refrigerator boxes really remind me of my grandmother because in the old days when my spring got wound too tight she was always threatening to put me in a refrigerator and give me a "Special Granny time-out"--which would have been an eternal time-out 'cause everyone knows that if you stick a little kid in a refrigerator for too long then you just have to push the refrigerator over onto its side and it becomes a pretty handy coffin. Just lift the door open so the light pops on, and if it were me inside you'd find my stiff fingers folded neatly around an empty mayonnaise jar and a big creamy white mustache on my upper lip. But it didn't get to this. Granny never could manage to shove me inside a refrigerator because my arms and legs are long and I was like a four-legged octopus gripping the outside edge as she pushed on the soft middle of me."I promise to let you out before you turn darkblue," she'd grunt, huffing and puffing and trying to make a deal. But I knew better, even after she offered me money, because you can't spend it when you are dead.When I saw that box in some neighbor's front yard trash pile I stood there for a minute thinking about Granny because she is the one who is dead and buried in St. Mary's Cemetery now and I miss her. I didn't mean to start thinking about what she went through--being cremated and her ashes poured into her special jar--but then I did start to imagine it and when I pictured her coffin all in flames and her hair on fire and all the awful thoughts you can have about a dead person you love, I just got really antsy and had to think of something else. I had to do something with my hands so I could put my racing mind to rest.I glanced over my shoulder and made sure nobody was watching, then I hunkered down like a cartoon burglar does before he steals something and I grabbed the box by one of its loose flaps and began to drag it loudly down the street to my house. It sounded like I was dragging a really unhappy animal by the ear. I still wasn't sure what I was going to do with it, but I just had a burning need for that box. I guess I missed my grandmother, and hauling a box around was a lot better than digging up her jar full of ashes for a graveside chat. I knew Mom would flip if I dragged a dirty box off the street in through the front door because of her"house beautiful" rules which just started a few months ago after a big truck pulled up and instantly we had all new furniture and wall-to-wall carpeting."Where'd that stuff come from?" I asked her because she was always saying we were flat broke whenever I wanted something new."Secret admirer" is all she said, and then she got that lost-in-love look on her face and I dropped the subject. I never like hearing about her boyfriends because I'm supposed to be her "big man" around the house.So I dragged the box around to the back of the house and I guess that's when my mind kicked in because the moment I dropped the box my hands stopped working and I got a big idea. It was so big it allowed me to have fun and do my homework at the same time. When we started studying geography and America's borders this year my teacher, Mr. Turner, pointed to a pull-down map of Canada, and the moment he did I popped up and yelled out that I had been on a bus trip to Niagara Falls with my mom this summer and there was a museum full of the barrels that people used to float down the river and go over the falls in. "And some of those people died!" I shouted. "Died badly!" Before Mr. Turner could warn everyone not to try going over the falls themselves, I added, "And some of the people actually went over the falls with their pets!"And then when he started speaking again I remembered another detail and shouted out, "And some of the pets died badly, too!"Not one person in the class believed me. They never believed me, because during the Sensitivity Lesson on the first day of school when we were all practicing how to be really honest and kind to each other I was dumb enough to honestly announce that I actually made up more stuff than I really knew because my imagination was bigger than my brain. Since then nobody has believed a word I say, which is not very sensitive of them."But this time I'm telling the truth!" I insisted. "At the museum they showed a dog that had been squished on impact and looked like a furry pancake with a tail." I turned left and right and tried my best to look twenty-eight kids in the eyes all at once which only made the center of my eyes vibrate. And while I was in the middle of a shouting match with everyone Mr. Turner stood up and asked us to chill out and then he looked at me and said, "Joey I want you to do some research on this Niagara Falls subject and get back to us."Well, when he said "get back to us" I just instantly yelled out, "I'm the king of getting back to you on that!" And he said he knew this already and gave me a wink. I figured some other teachers had warned him that I was sometimes like a windup pirate's parrot screeching Can I get back to you on that! Can I get back toyou on that!, which used to make me laugh like crazy. I like Mr. Turner because he takes me less seriously than he has to, even though he once asked me if my mouth had a tiny mind all of its own.I was thinking about all this as I dragged the box up to the top of the slide on my swing set. It was an old kind of slide with a metal surface and not the plastic kind, which is kid-friendly but also kid-boring. I mean, you need something solid and smooth like the metal kind if you are going to coat it with Wesson oil and put a cookie sheet or something on it and fly down. I was going to use the box to experiment with going over the falls. I knew the barrels that people had sat in were filled with some kind of cushioning material, so I raced into the house and yanked some fancy throw pillows off the new couch before Mom saw me. But Pablo and my new dog, Pablita, heard me, which was good because they followed me out back where they could be part of my research experiment.I shoved one pillow right up into the front of the box and slipped one in on each side, and then I climbed down the ladder and pulled my arms out from my T-shirt holes so that the shirt just hung over my body from the neck down like a poncho. Then I scooped up the dogs and slipped them under my shirt so that their heads stuck out of the empty armholes and made me look like a three-headed freak boy. It was hard to climb the ladder this way so I used myteeth to grip the rungs as I hiked myself up. The metal rungs tasted like rust and dirt and reminded me of the taste of blood, which should have been a warning, but my mind was focused on other things. Once I got to the top I had trouble keeping my balance because the dogs were yapping and scratching up my belly with their jittery sharp nails, but I still managed to crawl into the box and kick out at the top of the ladder with my foot. The three of us went screaming down the falls for half a second before the box slowed down and didn't even drop off the bottom lip of the slide. The whole operation was a Niagara-size dud. And then while my hands were tied up with the dogs my brain really got going, so I imagined that getting the box up on the porch roof might be good beca...

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