Thursday, November 29, 2018

Memoir Review: Hey, Kiddo

One of the memoirs I read during Nonfiction November was a coming-of-age graphic memoir that was a National Book Award finalist this year: Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Though marketed as a teen/YA novel, it's appropriate - and enjoyable - for adults as well.

The memoir tells the story of Jarrett's own childhood and his family's history, beginning when his grandparents, Joe and Shirl, first met in high school all the way through Jarrett's own high school graduation. Jarrett was born after his mother, Leslie, his grandparents' oldest daughter, had an affair with a guy in a band. Shirl was livid that she'd gotten pregnant, increasing the rift between mother and daughter, but she adored her new grandson. Leslie was on a self-destructive path, though. After several arrests, she finally went off to prison, beginning a pattern of prison and stints in rehab that would continue throughout Jarrett's life. Jarrett went to live with his grandparents, who legally adopted him, and grew up with his younger aunts like sisters. He and his mother corresponded and swapped drawings with each other, but Jarrett saw her only rarely. Joe and Shirl loved Jarrett, but they had already raised five kids of their own. Shirl, in particular, was a chain smoker and heavy drinker who could lose her temper easily and never patched things up with Leslie. The memoir also covers Jarrett's coming-of-age: his search for his father, struggles with his mother, and path to becoming an author-illustrator.
A sample page from Hey, Kiddo

Jarrett recounts the full story of his childhood in an honest, unflinching way. There were certainly plenty of rough patches but also lots of love and happy memories, too. In this way, his memoir is authentic and real, with sad, difficult times interspersed with funny moments and good times. His grandparents devoted their lives to him, a fact he came to appreciate more as he grew up, and encouraged his artistic pursuits. The drawings that fill the graphic memoir are mostly black and white, with accents of burnt orange (a choice he explains in an afterword) that bring his memories to life on the page. This engrossing story about how addiction affects families is ultimately also about how love can heal.

320 pages, Graphix (an imprint of Scholastic)

Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. My review is my own opinion and is not influenced by my relationship with the publisher or author.

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You can see more sample pages from the beginning of the memoir here - click on Look Inside.

You can purchase Hey, Kiddo from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, here:
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  1. I thought this was well done as well; it tackles important issues, but also shows the love between himself and his grandparents.

    1. Yes, exactly. They were a bit rough around the edges but you could see their love for him and his for them.

  2. This is my top pick to win a Printz Award this year. Very well-done.

  3. Sounds good so I'm hoping my library has it.

  4. Thank you so much for this review. I've been anxious to read this one, so now I'm even more excited. I see that it's currently being catalogued at our library so I need to see if they'll allow me to be first on the list. LOL

    1. Oh, good - I hope you get it soon!