Hey, Kiddo by Jared J. Krosoczka
After years of dreaming about doing it, artist and author, Jarrett J. Krosoczka, finally decided to write/draw his memoir. The catalyst? The popular TED Talk he gave on his upbringing and how it had a direct impact on his successful career and happy life. See, Jarrett was born to a teen mom who was addicted to Heroin, though he didn’t understand this until after his grandparents (essentially, his parents) took him to Disney World when he was around twelve. In his graphic memoir, Jarrett shows and tells how his grandparents raised him even though they had already raised five of their own kids. They were both two-pack-a-day smokers who drank a lot but loved him fiercely and provided him with opportunities in support of his interests and talents. Jarrett had always loved drawing and got better and better at it as the years went by. Unfortunately, funding for art was slashed and it was no longer offered at his public elementary/middle school. His grandfather took action and paid for Jarrett to take art classes 2-3 times per week at the local art museum. Not only those classes but the support and encouragement of his grandparents, for realizing he NEEDED those classes, guided Jarrett on his path of becoming the wildly successful author and artist he is today.
As someone who grew up in the 80s like Jarrett, I especially enjoyed Jared’s day-to-day experiences and amusements which were much like my own. Teens will enjoy Jarrett’s style of art and easygoing storytelling. If they live in a non-traditional family like Jarrett, they will easily be able to relate to his challenges. Aspiring artists, aside from appreciating Jarrett’s excellent drawings, will also value his technical notes about how he created the art in the book (I didn’t understand most of it, lol).
“When you’re a kid and a teen, you’re not in control of your circumstances. But the beautiful thing about growing up is that you get to create your own reality and your own family. That family might be a group of tight-knit friends, that family might be a spouse and children of your own. But ultimately, your childhood realities do not have to perpetuate themselves into adulthood, not if you don’t let them.”
I love how Jarrett draws his grandparents. So sweet!
Hey, Kiddo has gotten lots of end-of-year recognition: Booklist, Best Youth Non-Fiction, National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature, NPR’s (list of) Best YA of 2018, and many others, I am sure.
Watch Jarrett’s 2012 TED Talk here (it’s well worth the 18 minutes!):