Joey Pigza Loses Control
Biography of Jack Gantos
John Gantos Jr. (better known as Jack Gantos) was born on July 2, 1951, in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania. His parents were John, a construction superintendent, and Elizabeth, a banker. He has an older sister and two younger brothers. When Jack was in first grade he was placed in the Bluebird reading group. He was not aware until later that the Bluebird reading group was for slow readers. Also, at that time, his favorite game to play was pretending to set his clothes on fire. Then he would roll down a hill to save himself. This is also the time that Jack got his first journal. His older sister was given a journal by their mom, and Jack wanted to be just like his big sister so he wanted one to. Everyday, Jack wrote in his journal about the weather and the things he had eaten.
When Jack was seven, his family moved to Barbados. He went to a British school, where reading and writing were the subjects stressed the most. The school was very competitive, but the teachers made learning fun. His move to Barbados provoked Jack to write more personal information in his journal, including stories. By fifth grade, Jack reports that he had learned ninety percent of what he knows now. His family then moved to south Florida. He discovered that his fellow classmates had little interest in their studies. He found an abandoned bookmobile by the school’s baseball field, where he would read all day long.
In junior high Jack went to a school that had once been a state prison. He spent all of his free time reading. Eventually, in high school, Jack decided that he wanted to be a professional writer. When Jack graduated from high school, he left Florida to go to Emerson College in Boston.
In the summer of 1971, Jack wanted to make money quickly for college. He partook in some illegal activities. Jack was offered ten thousand dollars to help sail a boat loaded with a ton of hashish. Unfortunately, Jack got caught and was sent to prison. When Jack was in prison he contemplated about his dream of becoming a writer. He decided to make a plan in order for him to accomplish that goal. When Jack was released from prisoner he started a whole new life.
At Emerson College, Jack met an art student, Nicole Rubel. They teamed up to create picture books for children. However, Jack received his first rejection letter and got very frustrated. Then he remembered some advice a teacher had told him, to write what you know. He was at his desk and looked down, and there was his cat getting into trouble. His cat became Rotten Ralph.
Jack Gantos’s first book, Rotten Ralph, was published in 1976. His friend Nicole Rubel did the illustrations for the book. The same year he earned his B.F.A in creative writing from Emerson College. He then decided to become a freelance writer. Gantos continued to write his picture books and started working part-time at Emerson College as a writing instructor. Gantos became an associate professor of creative writing and literature at Emerson College after receiving his master’s degree in creative writing. On November 11th 1989, Jack married an art dealer named Anne A. Lower. They have a daughter, Mabel Grace. At Emerson, Jack became Graduate Coordinator for the M. A. degree in creative and professional writing.
In 1994, Jack produced his first book in the “Jack Henry Series.” The Jack Henry books were based on Jack’s real life. In 1995, Jack became a full professor at Emerson College. The following year, Gantos went to Vermont College. He became a core faculty member, and designed the M.F.A. program. He also taught a class on writing for children, before returning to Emerson College. In 1998, Jack published his first book of the Joey Pigza trilogy, which became one of his most critically acclaimed works. In 2001, his book Joey Pigza Loses Control was a Newberry Honor Book.
Today, Jack Gantos lives in Boston, Massachusetts. He spends most of his time writing books and doing educational speaking. He is a frequent conference speaker, university lecturer, and in-service provider.
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Page Last Updated March 3, 2005