Krosoczka, author of the Lunch Lady graphic novels, tells his own story in Hey Kiddo, a graphic novel memoir that is by turns harsh and tender.
Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Graphix, 2018. 320 pages.
Reading Level: Ages 12-15
Recommended For: Ages 15 and up, with cautions
His first memory of someone serving him breakfast was at his grandparents’, aged three. Before that, Jarrett fended for himself. When his teacher asks his kindergarten class to draw their families, complete with a mommy and a daddy, Jarrett blanks. That doesn’t describe his family at all. There comes a time when Jarrett doesn’t even send his mother a Mother’s Day card; he only gives one to his grandmother instead. He discovers his father’s name by accident in high school. His mother misses his graduation.
Stated baldly like that, Jarrett’s life is full of despair. And there is truth to that. His mother got addicted to heroin when she was in high school and never really made it clean. His dad didn’t stick around to support his mom, and she released custody of Jarrett to her father (but not to her alcoholic mother) when she ended up back in rehab. His grandparents were loud, brassy, and coarse (with the language to prove it!), but they did love him. So did his aunts and uncles.
Hey Kiddo is an incredibly moving memoir. It’s a hard read, especially in parts, but it’s a well-crafted, honest one. The good news is that Jarrett’s adult life is not mirroring his mother’s. His grandparents, despite their quirks, provided him a stable home and did their best to encourage his art–which turned out to be a tremendous tool for self reflection and processing for Jarrett (in addition to enabling him to write such great series for kids as the Lunch Lady graphic novels!). Plenty of kids struggle with similar circumstances: an absent parent, in jail or rehab or unavailable due to some other circumstances, and the kids living with their family members–or in foster care. This memoir offers a peek into that life, its impact on the kids, and the challenges that everyone involved must face.
True, there is no ultimate hope apart from Christ. And true, we will always struggle with the mess of sin in this world. But it is also true that part of Creation’s design includes families at the core. Sometimes, those “families” are present even if it’s grandparents instead of parents, or aunts and uncles (like in Patina, one of our Faith, Fiction, & Fellowship books!). The body of Christ is also referred to as the family of God.
We read books partly to understand our fellow men and women better, and a book like Hey Kiddo offers a great window into a life that many are experiencing. Jarrett’s life ends on the best possible note in secular terms: his own adult life is stable, he’s happily married with a couple of kids, and he is doing work he loves. It’s a hopeful ending, even if we wish it were fully complete with an eternal hope as well.
Cautions: Language (LOTS, both profanity and vulgarity); Lifestyle issues (drug addiction, alcoholism); sexual immorality (Jarrett’s parents)
Overall Rating: 4
Artistic Rating: 4.5/5Worldview Rating: 3.5/5
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