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Book Review

Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Hey, Kiddo is both a graphic novel and a memoir chronicling the complicated childhood of New York Times Bestselling Author Jarrett Krosoczka.

Jarrett is born to a drug-addicted single mother, Leslie, who is in and out of prison and rehab. He lives with his grandparents for most of his childhood, always hoping Mom would get her act together. She writes him letters and makes infrequent appearances when she isn’t incarcerated.

His grandparents have their own problems with alcohol, cigarettes and fighting. But they love him, make sure his needs are met and support his interest in drawing. When he is old enough to understand, they explain his mother’s drug problems and the reason for her absence. In middle school, they buy him an art desk and enroll him in classes at the art museum. Jarrett also makes a good friend, Pat, when he moves in with his grandparents.

One day, Grandpa mentions he’s run into Jarrett’s father. Jarrett asks his father’s name but says he never wants to meet the man. Jarrett has a girlfriend named Stacy who breaks up with him when they start high school. He dislikes having to attend a high school called Holy Name, while most of his friends are going elsewhere.

Older kids in his gym class bully him, and he tries unsuccessfully to get his grandparents to transfer him. He wins a local newspaper contest with an editorial cartoon he creates, and the editor of the Holy Name paper asks him to be editorial cartoonist for the school. She also invites him to paint a mural of the school mascot.

Jarrett’s mom gets out of rehab, and Jarrett’s grandparents help her get an apartment nearby. She lives there with her boyfriend, Miguel, a former addict like herself. Jarrett sees more of his mother then, but the lingering pain caused by her addiction and absence still create friction. Jarrett also receives a letter from his birth father. Initially, he doesn't respond to it.

Jarrett compiles a portfolio in hopes of entering Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). After working as a counselor at a camp for younger kids with cancer, Jarrett begins to wonder if he has any birth siblings. He writes to his father and learns he has a half-brother and half-sister that look like him.

Just before he graduates from high school, Jarrett goes to his father’s house to meet him and his siblings. He likes his siblings and develops a relationship with this side of his birth family. His mother doesn’t show up at his graduation, but he realizes how lucky he is to have grandparents, extended family and stepsiblings who care about him. He attends RISD as a sophomore and goes on to become a bestselling author and illustrator.

Christian Beliefs

None

Other Belief Systems

None

Authority Roles

Jarrett’s grandparents love, support and parent him when his mother can’t. They drink, smoke and curse heavily. Grandpa is an innovator who involves the whole family in his business.

Jarrett’s mom is a drug addict who spends her life in and out of jail and rehab. She is generally absent and misses important events, such as his graduation. Jarrett’s birth father reconnects with him when Jarrett is a teen. He tells Jarrett he drank a lot and wouldn’t have been a good father back then.

Profanity/Violence

The Lord’s name is used in vain frequently in various forms. D--n, s---, a---, b--ch, tits, vagina (used as an insult), faggot, crap, the f-word and off-color comments appear frequently.

Jarrett gets his hand stuck in an escalator. Illustrations show blood spurting as Grandma tries to get his hand out. Another illustration depicts Jarrett with a cast on his middle finger. He’s sticking it up and telling a teacher the doctor ordered him to elevate it.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Illustrations depict Jarrett’s grandparents kissing while they’re dating. Grandpa and other soldiers stationed in Guam admire a parade of women in hula skirts and bikini tops.

Leslie meets a guy in a bar. They hide their relationship from his girlfriend, and Leslie gets pregnant. The man claims the baby isn’t his and starts spreading rumors about how she’s been sleeping around. Jarrett says his mom had been sleeping around, but Leslie knew this man was the father because all the other men she’d slept with were black.

Grandma calls Leslie names like slut and whore when she learns she’s pregnant. When Jarrett is a young child, his mother has men stay the night in her bed. Jarrett starts having bad dreams about monsters creeping up all around him.

Leslie’s younger sister, Ashley, has a child out of wedlock. She and Grandma fight about the child’s well-being, and Ashley storms out to live with her boyfriend. Grandpa points out a woman on television and says she looks like a tramp with her breasts sticking out.

Jarrett creates a prom cartoon that mentions condoms. Jarrett strategically designs the light switch to look like male genitalia in his mural of the school mascot. Grandpa created a revolutionary ball valve, so he ordered T-shirts stating his company had the biggest balls in the industry.

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: Grandpa sometimes comes home late and is drunk. This causes fights with Grandma. Grandma drinks often as well. Jarrett sneaks out with friends to attend a party that includes alcohol. Jarrett’s birth father says he drank a lot in his younger days and wouldn’t have been a good father back then.

Smoking: Both grandparents are frequently depicted with lit cigarettes in their mouths.

Drug addiction: Grandpa and Grandma tell Jarrett the whole truth about his mother’s drug addiction: Leslie is an addict who has often stolen and sold items for heroin. She started using drugs when she was 13. She would make her little sisters return items she shoplifted so she could get the cash. She stole items from her parents, including credit cards and Grandma’s wedding ring. She shoplifted Christmas presents while Jarrett was with her. She spent years in and out of jail and halfway houses.

Crime: Illustrations depict Leslie aiding two men who are holding knives and wearing blood-soaked shirts, as if they’d just committed a crime.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

12 to 18

Author

Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

Released

On Video

Year Published

2018

Awards

National Book Award Finalist, 2018

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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