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Featured books by Jack Gantos

Meet Rotten Ralph, a cat who acts like a kid, and Joey, a boy who faces difficult but true-to-life issues. Each of Gantos' books provides insight and empathy for a range of real characters with honest emotions.

Visit our sister site, AdLit.org, to see more books by Jack Gantos, written for kids ages 12-16.

Back to School for Rotten Ralph

By: Jack Gantos
Illustrated by: Nicole Rubel
Age Level: 3-6
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Sarah's remarkably rotten feline friend attempts to keep her from starting school. Ultimately Sarah comes up with a devious plan that allows Ralph to come, too — but with disastrous results! Ralph is really rotten — and Sarah loves him just as he is.

Best in Show for Rotten Ralph

By: Jack Gantos
Illustrated by: Nicole Rubel
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

In four short chapters, Sarah tries to ready her red rascally cat, Rotten Ralph, for a kitty competition that includes his cousin, Perfect Percy. Ultimately, Ralph and Sarah conclude that sometimes it's best to just be yourself. Humor abounds in this installment of Rotten Ralph.

Dead End in Norvelt

By: Jack Gantos
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

This humorous and heartwarming novel takes place during the summer of 1962, when narrator Jack Gantos turns 12 and has been "grounded for life" by his parents. He takes on a summer job writing obituaries filled with stories about the people who founded his Utopian town, Norvelt. Gantos expertly mixes truth and fiction in this book, which won the Newbery award in 2012. For mature readers 9-12 and teens.

Heads or Tails: Stories from the Sixth Grade

By: Jack Gantos
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Jack's life is a crazy roller-coaster ride. At his fifth school in six years, he has a crackpot teacher who wont give him a break about his lousy handwriting and a secret crush who wants to be a policewoman. At home, he has a pesky little brother with a knack for breaking an arm whenever Jack's supposed to be looking after him, a terror for an older sister, all sorts of weird neighbors, and, last but not least, ferocious alligators in the canal behind his house.

I Am Not Joey Pigza

By: Jack Gantos
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Joey's dad is back in the picture after winning the lottery. He's a man with a mission—to remake himself and his family. But, Joey wonders as his mother takes his father back into their life, is it really possible? Readers will cheer Joey on as his journey ranges from the heartbreaking to the comical.

Jack Adrift: Fourth Grade Without a Clue

By: Jack Gantos
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Jack and his family are moving to North Carolina now that his father has joined the navy. In school there, nine-year-old Jack falls hopelessly in love with his new teacher. Told through Jack's crisp, often funny, sometimes poignant narration in a format that emulates a journal, this is the prequel for the Jack series.

Jack on the Tracks: Four Seasons of Fifth Grade

By: Jack Gantos
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Inspired by the author's childhood diaries, this collection of Jack Henry stories depicts a fifth-grade year to end all fifth-grade years. Living in a Miami rental home with a busy railroad track running a stone's throw from the backyard, Jack is plagued by a know-it-all older sister, a bizarre Francophile teacher, a series of crazed cats, a slightly off-kilter father, a tapeworm, and a pair of escaped convicts — to name just a few of his antagonists.

Jack's Black Book

By: Jack Gantos
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

According to his new motto, "A Writer's Job Is to Turn His Worst Experiences Into Money," Jack Henry is going to be filthy rich even before he gets out of junior high, for his life is filled with the worst experiences imaginable. In the course of the few months Jack is humiliated by a gorgeous synchronized swimmer, gets a tattoo the size of an ant on his big toe, flubs an IQ test and nearly fails wood shop, and has to dig up his dead dog not once but twice. And that's not the half of it.

Jack's New Power: Stories from a Caribbean Year

By: Jack Gantos
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Pre-Reader

It is the summer after sixth grade and Jack and his offbeat family have relocated to Barbados. But even in a tropical paradise, Jack is plagued by misadventure.

Joey Pigza Loses Control

By: Jack Gantos
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Joey Pigza really wants his six-week visit with his dad to count, to show him he's not as wired as he used to be, to show his dad how much he loves him. But Carter Pigza's not an easy guy to love. He's eager to make it up to Joey for past wrongs and to show him how to be a winner, to take control of his life. With his coaching, Joey's even learned how to pitch a baseball, and he's good at it. The trouble is, Joey's dad thinks taking control means giving up the things that "keep Joey safe". And if he wants to please his dad, he's going to have to play by his rules, even when the rules don't make sense.

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key

By: Jack Gantos
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Joey is out of control. He knows it, his mom knows it, and the school knows it. Nothing seems to remedy his behavior until Joey runs away from a class field trip, hurts a classmate, and is sent to a special education program. There, his medications are regulated and Joey achieves a level of control.

Rotten Ralph

By: Jack Gantos
Illustrated by: Nicole Rubel
Age Level: 6-9
Reading Level: Beginning Reader

Meet Ralph, Sarah's rotten, red, rat of a cat. In spite of his rudeness, Sarah loves Ralph and is his champion — until her parents have had enough of Ralph's rotten behavior and (temporarily) kick Ralph out. The results are a funny, offbeat picture book for slightly older readers.

What Would Joey Do?

By: Jack Gantos
Age Level: 9-12
Reading Level: Independent Reader

Life is especially tough for Joey. Not only does he struggle with ADHD, his family is truly dysfunctional. Readers will sense that Joey is a good kid who's trying to do the right things, but often without much support. Readers will likely laugh and weep for Joey.

Interested in wonderful interviews with tween and teen authors? Hop on over to our sister site, AdLit.org, and browse the library.

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"I used to walk to school with my nose buried in a book." — Coolio