Thursday, May 30, 2019

Hey Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family, written by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, reviewed by Bethany Bratney

Hey, Kiddo is a graphic memoir. The author captures his most formative experiences and memories from childhood through his high school graduation. Central to his story is his complicated relationship with his mother, who struggled with addiction and spent a good portion of his childhood in prisons or treatment facilities. His mother's absence led Jarrett to be raised by his grandparents, who were not without their own flaws, but provided him a safe and healthy home. They also encouraged him to pursue his love of art, paying for classes at the Worcester Art Museum and sending him to art school after graduation.

Straight Talk for Librarians: This book perfectly captures Krosoczka's inspiring story (and incredible artwork), allowing readers to see how family, friends, challenges, and artistic passion came together in an imperfect, but beautiful package to make him the person that he is today. The artwork has a somber feel to it, largely in part to the limited color scheme of black, white and rusty orange. Krosoczka includes scanned images of objects and artifacts from his childhood, including many letters and drawings received from his mother, that add further depth and sentimentality to his drawings. But the story is what will really capture readers. Watching young Jarrett make sense of the big things that were happening in his small world, seeing the expression expertly drawn on his face, will pull at the reader’s heartstrings. There are frequent references to drugs and alcohol, which are central to the narrative, and some swearing, so this book better for mature middle school and high school readers. It may work as supplementary reading in a psychology class, or fit into English curriculum when students are studying memoirs. Even if it is not required reading, kids will gravitate toward this accessible and moving story on their own. It is a remarkable example of a young person coming through tremendous adversity and a perfect specimen of the power of art in our lives.

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