In Hey, Kiddo, author/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka puts his talents to use on a sophisticated project: delving into his own chaotic past.
Krosoczka's mother, Leslie, "started using when she was just thirteen years old" and wasn't sure who his father was until Jarrett was born. When Leslie's "terrible decisions" became too dangerous for three-year-old Jarrett, his grandfather Joe insisted on becoming the boy's legal guardian. Jarrett's grandfather, usually depicted puffing a cigarette, frequently expressed love for his grandson, and provided for him in the best way he could. His grandmother Shirley--also a heavy smoker and a drinker--was abrasive, though she clearly loved the boy. Still, Jarrett "always felt the void that Leslie's absence created." When she did come around, there were good times. But, mostly, there were letters and homemade cards exchanged, where he'd "request a cartoon from her and then she'd request one back from [him]."
Eventually, Jarrett found himself in art. This memoir serves as an expression of the richness of his gift, as well as a tribute to his "two incredible parents" who "happened to be a generation removed." Rendered in black, white and a range of grays, with touches of color, the inked art is moody and expressive. By the time he graduated from high school, Jarrett came to terms with the family that, though far from "idyllic," is uniquely his. Perhaps, as Leslie told Jarrett while he was working on this book, their story "could help somebody who might be walking a similar path to the one [they] had walked." Here's hoping! --Lynn Becker, blogger and host of Book Talk, a monthly online discussion of children's books for SCBWI