Hey, Kiddo: A Review

January 17, 2020

 Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt With Family Addiction by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

  • Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt With Family Addiction

Genre/Categories: Nonfiction, Memoir, MG/YA Graphic Novel

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.


Normal is a setting on the dryer….

Jarrett Krosoczka knows from a very young age that his family is complicated. His mom is an addict and unreliable; his father is absent in every way and Jarrett doesn’t even know his father’s name. Jarret’s grandparents rescue, adopt, and raise him. As a teenager, Jarrett gains a deeper understanding of his complicated family and embraces his love of art as a lifeline.

Jarrett Krosoczka’s TED Talk

My Thoughts:

Do you read graphic novels?

I think teens who love graphic novels, teens who live with complicated families, or teens who love to draw might be the perfect audience for Hey, Kiddo. Of course, adult readers can also enjoy memorable graphic novels!

Graphic novels do not fall into my usual genre of reading…..but memoirs do! Hey, Kiddo is the perfect format for an author/illustrator’s memoir. His family saved all his works of art and letters from his mom, so it’s especially poignant to see his first artwork and actual letters from his mom incorporated into the book’s illustrations. Don’t miss the author’s notes at the end!

Even though Hey, Kiddo is a sad story of addiction, loss, and abandonment, it’s also hopeful. God bless the grandparents who rescue children! The grandparents weren’t perfect…in fact they were loud and opinionated, sometimes gruff, and enjoyed their liquor and cigarettes…but they loved him, sacrificed for him, and provided a stable environment for him. (this part reminded me of Hillbilly Elegy) In addition to his grandparents, Jarrett had his art which helped him survive. Certain teachers also provided encouragement and safe places for Jarrett.

Hey, Kiddo is a candid and heartfelt memoir that traces Jarrett’s journey through childhood, elementary and high school, and college. I love seeing how art helps him survive and provides something positive in his life. Also, I appreciate hearing how he reconciles with his mother, eventually connects with his father, and honors his grandparents. It offers a great deal of hope for kids in similar situations.

A slight disappointment is that Hey, Kiddo contains profanity which is typical for YA, but I might be hesitant to recommend this for some Middle-Grade readers and I would NOT recommend it for elementary readers (who are his main audience). It’s a bit confusing that this memoir is not written with his primary audience in mind. However, it seems that this might be an important read for teens that share similar challenges at home. Definitely,  YA and mature MG readers who love to draw and who grew up loving his Lunch Lady graphic novels might be the ideal readers for this memoir.

Here’s his story in his own words.

As a novice graphic novel reader, I enjoyed Hey, Kiddo and recommend it for mature Middle Grade (7-9), for YA readers, (especially if they are fans of Lunch Lady), and for those who appreciate memoir.

I wish the publishers would release a profanity-free version for elementary readers!

Content Considerations: some Language, discussion of addiction, a parent in rehab and jail

TL:DR: Hey, Kiddo is a compelling and poignant memoir that offers hope for middle grade kids growing up in complicated families.

My Rating:  4  Stars


Hey Kiddo

Hey, Kiddo Information

Meet the Author, Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Jarrett Krosoczka

Jarrett J. Krosoczka has been passionate about storytelling through words and pictures since he was a kid. He began his professional career by illustrating educational readers for a national publisher while still an undergraduate at Rhode Island School of Design. Then, just six months after graduation, Jarrett received his first contract for a trade book that he authored. Knopf Books for Young Readers published Good Night, Monkey Boy on June 12, 2001, and Jarrett hasn’t stopped or slowed down since.

Jarrett is a two-time winner of the Children’s Choice Book Award for the Third to Fourth Grade Book of the Year and is the author and/or illustrator of more than twenty-five books for young readers. His work includes several picture books, the Lunch Lady graphic novels and Platypus Police Squad middle-grade novel series. Jarrett has given two TED Talks, both of which have been curated to the main page of TED.com and have collectively accrued nearly two million views online. He is also the host of The Book Report with JJK on SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live, a weekly segment celebrating books, authors and reading. His work has been featured on the front page of The Boston Globe and on NPR’s All Things Considered. Jarrett’s books have also been recommended by national publications such as Newsweek, The New York Times and USA Today. His Punk Farm picture book and Lunch Lady series are both currently in development as feature films. Jarrett lives in Western Massachusetts with his wife and two daughters, and their pugs.

TED Talk


Do you read graphic novels? I’m a newbie because the only other one I’ve read is El Deafo.


Winter 2019 TBR

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Most Memorable Read of 2019

Trigger Warnings: Yes or No?

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    • Thanks!
      I concur…graphic novels are not my first choice! Compared to the genre, this seems more like a picture book. But I don’t read GN so I really don’t know what I’m talking about! I wish the publishers would release an elementary version without the profanity because that’s his primary audience. If I were still teaching, it’s a book I would use to introduce the memoir genre. (But not in its current version)

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  2. Wonderful review Carol. I agree, there seems to be profanity in most YA books and I wish that wasn’t always the case. I don’t understand why it would be included in a book that’s target audience is middle graders. This does sound like a good book even with the profanity. As a retired teacher librarian, I read a lot of graphic novels over the years and they are okay, often with great stories and especially good for reluctant readers.

    • Yes, when I taught my kids loved them! The targeting of the Kiddo book is just odd! I’ve had several classroom teachers express disappointment in not being able to have it in their classrooms since he’s a children’s author! The publishers need to put out a kid friendly version because it’s a great story!

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