A National Book Award Finalist!
In kindergarten, Jarrett Krosoczka’s teacher asks him to draw his family, with a mommy and a daddy. But Jarrett’s family is much more complicated than that. His mom is an addict, in and out of rehab, and in and out of Jarrett’s life. His father is a mystery — Jarrett doesn’t know where to find him, or even what his name is. Jarrett lives with his grandparents — two very loud, very loving, very opinionated people who had thought they were through with raising children until Jarrett came along.
Jarrett goes through his childhood trying to make his non-normal life as normal as possible, finding a way to express himself through drawing even as so little is being said to him about what’s going on. Only as a teenager can Jarrett begin to piece together the truth of his family, reckoning with his mother and tracking down his father.
Hey, Kiddo is a profoundly important memoir about growing up in a family grappling with addiction, and finding the art that helps you survive.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Homophobic slur, Mild sexual themes, Strong language, Underage drinking, Bullying, Domestic violence, Drugs and drug addiction, Depictions of bloody nightmares, Depiction of an escalator accident
Booklist starred (September 15, 2018 (Vol. 115, No. 2))
Grades 8-12. In this deeply vulnerable, moving graphic memoir, Krosoczka, well known for his popular Lunch Lady series, recounts his sometimes troubled childhood, spent largely with his grandparents; his struggle to maintain a relationship with his heroin-addicted mother; and his gradually developing love for making art and comics. His grandfather officially took custody of Krosoczka when he was not yet five years old, and it wasn’t until much later that his learned about his mother’s heroin addiction and imprisonment. Life with his grandparents—a hard-drinking couple who bickered constantly—wasn’t always easy, but his grandfather was a stalwart supporter of his artistic aspirations, and he slowly realized that the atypical family he ultimately collected (even eventually his father, whom he finally met late in his teen years) could be enough. Krosoczka’s brushy, expressive artwork, incorporating snippets of his childhood drawings and letters, beautifully conveys the difficult circumstances of his upbringing. There’s a tender quality to his graceful line work and muted color palette, which adds to the compassionate way he depicts his family, even when he can’t count on them. A closing author’s note fills in additional backstory and helpful context, including the ultimate, heartbreaking result of his mother’s addiction. There have been a slew of graphic memoirs published for youth in the past couple of years, but the raw, confessional quality and unguarded honesty of Krosoczka’s contribution sets it apart from the crowd.
Horn Book Magazine (September/October, 2018)
Krosoczka offers a graphic memoir that is altogether more mature in style, theme, and content than his previous work for younger audiences (the Lunch Lady series; the Platypus Police Squad series). Raised by his grandparents, Krosoczka recounts the triumphs and tragedies he experienced from infancy through his high-school years. Regularly left in the dark regarding his family—including his father’s identity and mother’s transient whereabouts—Krosoczka eventually learns of his mother’s addiction to heroin and of her habitual incarceration. Other serious hardships—verbal abuse, violent crime, family alcoholism—punctuate Krosoczka’s childhood and adolescence, shifting his interest in art from something to impress his friends to a way “to deal with life. To survive.” Krosoczka’s actual childhood artwork (from early crayon drawings to high-school gag comics) and handwritten letters to and from his mother and others are seamlessly inserted into the gracefully rendered ink illustrations. Applied with a brush pen, the emotive line work fluctuates between thick and thin, while blurred panel edges allow moments to blend into one another. A limited palette of gray and orange washes positions the story in the past, as memory. Krosoczka has meticulously crafted an uncompromisingly honest portrayal of addiction, resilient familial love, and the power of art, dedicated in part to “every reader who recognizes this experience.” Heartfelt and informative author notes, art notes, and acknowledgments provide narrative closure. patrick gall
About the Author
Jarrett J. Krosoczka is a New York Times bestselling author, a two-time winner of the Children’s Choice Book Award for the Third to Fourth Grade Book of the Year, an Eisner award nominee, and the author and/or illustrator of more than 30 books for young readers. His work includes several picture books, select volumes of Star Wars: Jedi Academy, the Lunch Lady graphic novels, and the Platypus Police Squad novel series. Jarrett has given two TED Talks, both of which have been curated to the main page of TED.com and have collectively accrued more than two million views online. He is also the host of The Book Report with JJK on SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live, a weekly segment celebrating books, authors, and reading. Jarrett lives in Western Massachusetts with his wife and children, and their pugs, Ralph and Frank.
His website is www.studiojjk.com
Hey, Kiddo Review on Common Sense Media
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