Update: On Goodreads, the date mentioned for publication is September 25th. I mistakenly assumed that was the correct date. Not. October 9th is the publication date for this book.
I met Jarrett J. Krosoczka years ago when he visited the little library for which I worked. (Grammar lovers, you are welcome.) His picture book, Annie Was Warned, had just come out. He stopped by the library, spoke to a bunch of kids and did some line drawings - 15 years ago.
With his Lunch Lady series, Krosoczka has achieved Kid Book Author stardom.
Now, Krosoczka enters a whole new arena of book greatness - the graphic memoir*. Krosoczka's Hey, Kiddo recounts his childhood and teen years being raised by his grandparents. His relationship with his mother is strained, and geographically challenged, since she spends most of his life in treatment or prison for drugs and addiction. Kroscozka met his father when he was in late high school. His grandparents, though loving and supportive, are by no means perfect.
As trying as Krosoczka's childhood was, this graphic memoir wins at telling the story in a matter-of-fact voice. This was his normal. For many, many children, this kind of fragmented family life IS normal. The story is painful to read and, yet, it reflects the confusion that pervades childhood. The questions are always the same; who am I? where am I going? what am I good at? In a family like Krosoczka's, the answers are so much harder to achieve.
The message that family comes from the people who give you support makes this book a triumph. Always, no matter how acid mouthed his grandmother could be, no how many secrets his grandfather kept from him, they honored his talents and helped him flourish.
One virtue this book offers its readers is hope - hope that by staying in school, by following their talents, they can do okay. And then there is forgiveness. In the end, Jarrett forgave his Mom and his Dad and his grandparents - for being human.
Hey, Kiddo has been longlisted for the National Book Award. It's on sale soon. Buy a copy. Read every page. It's all good.
*BTW, this is not a book for young readers. The language reflects how teenage boys sometimes speak. There are scenes of illegal activities and sexual behavior - though never shown in detail.