King of the Pygmies

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King of the Pygmies
King of the Pygmies cover.jpeg
First edition cover
Author Jonathon Scott Fuqua
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Candlewick Press
Publication date
11 October 2005
Media type Print
Pages 256 pp
ISBN 0-7636-1418-1

King of the Pygmies is a young adult novel that lies on the line between magic and mental illness. It is the sixth novel written by American author Jonathon Scott Fuqua, originally published in 2005 by Candlewick Press. It is about a 15-year-old boy, Penrod "Penn" Swayne, and the troubles that he faces when he starts hearing the thoughts of people close to him.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

Penn is an average American high school boy living in the small town of Havre de Grace, Maryland. He has a crush on the new girl at school, Daisy. He looks out for his older brother, Matt, who has had brain damage from birth. Penn is on his way to a successful life.

All of this changes when he starts hearing voices.

He learns of the worries that his brother does not voice out loud, the depression that his neighbor is fighting, and the quiet struggles that his parents face each day.

After Penn shares the details of being able to hear people's thoughts, his mother forces him to see a psychiatrist as she suspects that he suffers from schizophrenia. He desperately tries to show his father that he is not insane and takes him to see his Uncle Hewitt, who had convinced Penn that he too could read people's minds. Unfortunately, his uncle could not correctly guess the thoughts of Penn's father, and both Penn and Hewitt are left looking as if they are not mentally stable.

Penn is let down by his uncle again after he promised that a man would come and see him and explain the Pygmy disease, which causes the ability to hear the thoughts of other people. The man does not show up, leaving Penn unsure whether his Uncle can truly hear the thoughts of other people, and even creates doubts concerning Penn's mental state and whether he is magic or mentally unstable.[2]


The cover shows the ocean and shoreline of the coast described in the novel. King of the Pygmies mentions that you can see what the weather will be like hours before it hits due to the huge expanse of uninterrupted skyline.

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • A Junior Library Guild Selection 2005-2006
  • An Ingram Collection Suggestion, 2005
  • Teen Reads November Selection, 2005
  • Nominated for the American Library Associations Best Young Adult Book of the Year, 2006


"King of the Pygmies doesn't settle easily on the side of magic or of medicine, suggesting instead that the world may be more complicated, more terrible and beautiful and unnerving than we could ever believe. . . . High and true art." - The Boston Globe

"King of the Pygmies is worth reading and discussing, as it is one of too-few teen novels that deal compassionately� with mental illness" -

"This is an amazing book for several reasons...The desperation and confusion, but also the ordinariness of a teenager is eloquently portrayed, as is the redemptive power of love...this is a well-written novel with special appeal for teenagers." - Magpies Magazine [3]

"Fuqua has written a persuasive and engaging story." - Reading Time