By Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Grade Levels: 7 - 12 and Parents
Hey, Kiddo is the semi-autobiographical work of beloved children’s book author Jarrett J. Krosoczka, most notably the fantastical and irreverent Lunch Lady series. However, in Hey, Kiddo, Krosoczka explores the themes of love and abandonment that run throughout his own life in a way that does what many books struggle to do. It takes mature subjects and makes them understandable for kids, kids who are often most in need of material dealing with these issues. Krosoczka’s mother struggled with drug addiction and his father was never around. Krosoczka was raised by his grandparents and struggled with understanding what it meant to have such a different family life from his peers in school. The book paints a heart-wrenching portrait of a child who grows up knowing that he is different but not fully understanding why. He goes through his childhood trying to make his non-normal life as normal as possible, finding a way to express himself through drawing even as so little is being said to him about what's going on. Only as a teenager can Jarrett begin to piece together the truth of his family, reckoning with his mother and tracking down his father.
For children growing up in a non-traditional family structure, this is a fantastic book to help explain to them what it means, who they can be, and why they are still loved. But for anyone, this is an amazing book that gives a detailed account, all the more convincing for being true, of how a child feels growing up in the shadow of addiction and how art can be a way of expressing yourself.