Review of Hey, Kiddo

Hey, Kiddo
by Jarrett J. Krosoczka; illus. by the author
Middle School, High School    Graphix/Scholastic    320 pp.    g
10/18    978-0-545-90247-2    $24.99
Paper ed.  978-0-545-90248-9    $14.99
e-book ed.  978-0-545-90249-6    $9.99

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.

From the September/October 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Patrick Gall
Patrick Gall works as a librarian for children in preschool through eighth grade at the Catherine Cook School in Chicago.
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