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December 19, 2010

Marcelo in the Real World

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork: Book Cover

Marcelo in the Real World


Author: Francisco Stork


Page Length: 312  


Reading Level: 5.3


Genre: Realistic Fiction


Career Connection:  Lawyer, Teacher, Occupational Therapist, Ministry

PLOT SUMMARY:  It isn’t often that a father forces his son to give up a job he has secured on his own, to take one in his own office.  However, that is what happens to Marcelo Sandoval, the summer before his senior year in high school.  Marcelo had planned to take care of the ponies at Paterson, his special school’s therapeutic-riding stables.  Marcelo exhibits qualities of Asperger’s Syndrome and is more comfortable at Paterson than he is in the real world.

His dad, Arturo, is a prominent lawyer.  He has always felt that Marcelo could overcome any obstacles he has, and wants to prove it to Marcelo by having him work in the mail room at his law firm.  He also wants Marcelo to attend the local regular high school, Oak Ridge High, rather than Paterson in the fall. Marcelo agrees to work for his father, if at the end of the summer he can make the choice of the school he will attend in the fall. 

Marcelo finds that working with Jasmine in the mailroom is not as bad as he thought it would be.  Jasmine is patient with him and he becomes comfortable in the working routine they have.  It is when Wendell, one of the partner’s sons, also working at the firm, confronts Marcelo and makes inappropriate remarks about Jasmine that Marcelo becomes upset.  Marcelo does not know how to react to Wendell, his feelings towards Jasmine, or a picture he finds when he is doing some work for Wendell.  The information he gains about the picture will affect a high profile case and the future of the firm. 

Will Marcelo tell what he knows about “the real world” or stay hidden in his Asperger-like comfort zone of Paterson?

REVIEW:  The book is narrarated by Marcelo who frequently talks of himself in third person.  He relates some of his peculiarities (e.g., he has obsessions with God and religion, hears internal music (IM), and sleeps in a tree house). He shares the difficulty he faces as he must learn menial tasks of the mailroom and deal with office politics.  He retains his innocence while considering the possibility of love, ethical dilemmas and other conflicts. 

Teen boys and girls, as well as adults, would enjoy this book that deals with the conflicts exposed for not only a boy with Asperger’s, but professional and social issues they may encounter themselves in the “real world”.

AREAS FOR TEACHING: Theme, Characters, Point of View, Conflict, Compare/Contrast, and Cause/Effect

TOUCHY AREAS: Occasional harsh profanity and sexual inferences

RELATED BOOKS: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, Rules, Anything But Typical

MOVIE CONNECTIONS: Mozart and the Whale (2005), Adam (2009), Rain Man (1988)

RELATED WEBSITES:…/scholastic-ala-2010-award-winners.html

REVIEWED BY: Shirley Wagner


March 10, 2008

Joey Pigza Loses Control

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Joey Pigza Loses Control

Author: Jack Gantos

Page Length: 196

Reading Level: 6


PLOT SUMMARY: Joey Pigza is an eleven year old boy with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. He reveals to the reader some of his exploits that occur whenever he has that crazy feeling inside. Joey currently lives with his mom and his Chihuahua, Pablo. Joey’s mother understands his problems and has taken Joey to the doctor; his medicine helps keep him in control and deters him for acting impulsively.


Mom takes Joey to visit with his father for the summer. Dad has supposedly cleaned up his act and is looking forward to making up for lost time. Joey arrives to dad and grandma. Grandma smokes like crazy in between being hooked up to her oxygen tank and being seized by coughing fits. Dad is well intended but often off track. Joey tells dad that he never gets a chance to talk too. As the story progresses, we see that dad is likely ADHD just like Joey. He self-medicates with cigarettes and alcohol (all things he is not supposed to be doing anymore). Joey and his father bond when Joey becomes the pitcher on his dad’s baseball team. They enjoy each other’s company, but there are many hurdles to overcome in their relationship.


One night dad drinks too heavily and determines that neither he nor Joey need their patches anymore. He crumples Joey’s patches and disposes of them. Joey begins to feel himself slipping out of control again; despite the fact that he really would like to be a normal kid, Joey can’t control his responses. Things heat up when Joey tries to protect dad and lies to mom about what’s going on at dad’s house. Joey’s guilt begins to consume him. Dad begins to pressure Joey to stay with him permanently. As everything around him begins to spiral out of control, Joey heads to his safe haven. Who will save Joey? Will dad ever realize that he needs help? Will Joey be forced to choose sides?


REVIEW: What was fascinating about this book was that you almost have to be ADHD to appreciate it. On the other hand, it was a fascinating look at what it might really be like to be ADHD. Gantos’s descriptions of the uncontrollable chaos in Joey’s mind and his outrageous actions really create sensitivity within the reader to the fact that Joey can’t help. The reader empathizes with Joey’s desire to be normal, but the same time, the reader realizes that just can’t happen without his medication.


AREAS FOR TEACHING: This book would definitely appeal more to boys. The episode Joey experiences on pages 140-142 might be a great read aloud and discussion of what it would be like to have ADHD and how it would affect your social and academic life (a great written response activity). Analyzing Joey at the beginning, middle, and end of the story would be a great activity (a bubble flow map). Overall, this book was an easy read. I’d even recommend it for teachers who work with ADHD students. 




REVIEWED BY: Dayna Taylor


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