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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Hey, Kiddo is by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author-illustrator of a host of very funny and imaginative middle grade and picture books, including the graphic novel series Lunch Lady, but the target age for this book starts at young teen. It's a frank but very moving memoir of growing up with a mom addicted to heroin. Though all is not bleak -- Jarrett's grandparents take him in, provide stability, and encourage his talent as an artist -- there's serious content. The mom is mostly absent -- she became addicted as a young teen and is in and out of rehab, halfway houses, and jail. The grandparents, though loving, are boozers, and when the grandmother hits the sauce, she swears and engages in coarse name-calling. Still, the overall feel of the book is hopeful and uplifting. Krosoczka gives credit to his grandparents and influential teachers, and even to his mom, in reproductions of actual letters and artwork she sent him at the time. This book will resonate strongly with kids affected by family substance abuse, but all can be stirred by this very moving redemptive human story.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
In HEY, KIDDO, Jarrett lives with his troubled single mom. When she's caught shoplifting and the two of them end up at the police station, the grandparents push for custody and raise Jarrett. His unreliable mom occasionally appears in his life unexpectedly, but she's largely absent, missing birthdays, holidays, and graduations. Though Jarrett craves her love, his grandparents eventually reveal to him that she's a heroin addict and often in jail. Despite his challenges, Jarrett actively develops his talent as an artist, and makes the most of the cards he's been dealt.
Is it any good?
This graphic novel memoir doesn't candy-coat the heartrending pain of growing up with an addicted mom, but it's shot through with an infectious generosity of spirit and hope. Hey, Kiddo helps us see events through Jarrett's young eyes. His unreliable mom makes a series of "terrible decisions. Decisions that would forever alter our relationship as mother and son." Since much of the pain's conveyed through art, in busy panels, readers can selectively absorb it as they're emotionally ready. For instance, a segment involving his mom's druggie friends is pictured but not described.
Krosoczka balances the grit with warmth and gratitude for the gifts he was given. His grandparents, though hard-drinking, actively and enthusiastically encouraged his talent, as did caring, influential teachers and mentors. And the art's studded with poignant personal memorabilia, including Jarrett's early comics and art, lovingly saved by his grandparents -- a very telling detail.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the addiction in Hey, Kiddo. Do you have family members who are alcoholics or addicts? How does substance abuse ripple out and affect others who are close to the addict?
Do you have something you love to do the way Jarrett loves to create art and comics? Are there adults in your life who encourage you, the way Jarrett's grandparents and teachers did?
Though Jarrett had a rough childhood, he's had success, happiness, and stability as an adult. What hopes do you have for your own life? What can you imagine as your own happy future?
- Author: Jarrett J. Krosoczka
- Illustrator: Jarrett J. Krosoczka
- Genre: Graphic Novel
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, High School, Middle School
- Book type: Non-Fiction
- Publisher: Graphix
- Publication date: October 9, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 320
- Available on: Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.