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Review: ‘Hey, Kiddo’

Hey Kidd no award sticker

One of my favorite questions that I get from my students, aside from “Did you read every book in this library?” is “What’s your favorite book?” It’s a hard question to answer, because it does change from book to book. And I tell them that. But I do tell them that there are only a few titles that I can go back to over and over again. A book that you can read again and again, where the characters still stay with you when the last page is read. (So now you know what my criteria for favorite titles.) And I think Hey, Kiddo falls into that category.

Hey, Kiddo
By Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Graphix. 2018. ISBN 9780545902489
PBK, $14.99. 320pp.
Grades 8 and up

Hey KiddoJarret Krosocza shares the most intimate details of his childhood. When he was just a toddler he went to live with his grandparents because of his mother’s heroin addiction. She was in and out of jail and in and out of rehab for most of Jarrett’s childhood. Jarrett ends up living with his grandparents. Though his mother only let her father take legal custody, ultimately, he was raised by both.

Life was far from perfect with his grandparents, between his grandmother drinking too much, his grandparents fighting, and an aunt having a baby as a teen. Even so, Jarrett was obviously loved and cared for. His grandparents encouraged his art and even supported his talent and interest by sending him to art classes when he was in middle school.

Jarret had no contact with his father until his senior year of High School. He only reached out because he wondered if he had any siblings. His desire for a relationship with his siblings helped him build a tenuous relationship with his father, who never wanted to acknowledge him.

The story is a dense one, and while it is marketed to teens, it is a memoir with details from an era before today’s teens were born. I’m not sure that this will discourage them, but the story is one of an adult looking back at his youth. Being from the same era as the author, I wondered how the teens will respond to it. And yet, there are so many themes going on here: An estranged father, a non-traditional family, and friendships. There will surely be readers who will empathize with all or parts of the story.

Hey, Kiddo has received dozens of accolades and has already been short-listed for the National Book Award. This title is very different from Krosoczka’s other graphic novels. It isn’t the witty Lunch Lady series or the fun Star Wars: Jedi Academy. Yet the artwork, at times, gives it that sort of feel. He draws his grandmother almost as a foil to the rest of his story and circumstance. In his afterword, Krosoczka explains the color he chose for the limited color palette.

The National Book Awards will be announced in mid-November. Let’s see if we have a winner on hand.

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Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 3 and regularly reviews for SLJ, LMC. In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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