On the Writing Road with Jack, Joey, and Rotten Ralph

Jack Gantos knows that a kid can be wacky AND wonderful. Crazy things happen to kids all the time. Take Joey Pigza. He can't sit still in class, and accidents seem to be waiting to happen. He's a live wire, just like his dad and his grandmother. No matter how hard he tries, he just can't settle down. But Joey is lucky; he does have people who care about him and can help him get what he needs to be happier.

His book, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, was inspired by a real kid who just couldn't sit still through a talk the author gave at an elementary school. Finally the boy cried out that he had forgotten to take his medication and went running down the hall to the nurse's office. Gantos thought the kid was Joey Pigza Swallowed the Keywonderful but realized how hard it must be for him to cope every day with attention deficit disorder.

He wrote about it in his journal that night and eventually created the Joey Pigza books. Joey tells his own story of what it feels like to be fine one minute and zinging off the walls the next. Joey's story met with critical success when the sequel, Joey Pigza Loses Control, was named a Newbery Honor Book in 2001.

Jack Gantos can write with a truly young voice because he has kept journals ever since he was in second grade. He didn't always write on the pages; sometimes he drew pictures or pasted in things he collected. By the time he was in fifth or sixth grade, he was really hooked on journal writing. He wrote about his family and school. A lot of the stories went into his series of books featuring his alter ego, Jack Henry. The series begins with Heads or Tails: Stories from the Sixth Grade.

Jack Gantos had his first professional writing success while he was still in college. He worked with a children's illustrator to create some picture books, but they were so sweet and low key that no publisher wanted to buy them. Later he was sitting at his desk, pondering his writing teacher's advice to write from what you know. Suddenly his cat pounced on his ankles with claws extended, and Rotten Ralph was born. Ralph has misbehaved through fifteen books and a television series, but his owner, Sarah, still loves him anyway. Rotten Ralph has a set of books out, "Rotten Ralph's Rotten Readers" to entice beginning readers with his crazy antics.

Jack also writes for older readers. His young adult novel, Dead End in Norvelt, which follows the semi-autobiographical adventures of 12-year-old Jack, won the Newbery Medal and the Scott O’Dell Award for best historical fiction in 2012.

He also wrote about his later rougher adolescence, touching on difficult experiences including events leading up to time spent in prison, which he laid out in Hole in My Life. These books are for mature readers.

Think you could be a writer? Jack Gantos has a guide for you - Writing Radar: Using Your Journal to Snoop Out and Craft Great Stories. Check it out for some great advice.

Rotten RalphRead More About the Author Online:

Achuka: Children's Books UK: An Interview with Jack Gantos
An in-depth interview focusing on the Joey Pigsa books. Includes photos of Gantos' planning notebook for the third Joey book.

Jack Gantos' Website
A funny, encouraging place that will help you get to know this author better.

LD Online Exclusive Interview with Jack Gantos
An interview conducted by a website dedicated to helping the learning disabled. Read the first chapter from Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key online. Includes contact information for Jack Gantos.