Graphic memoir Hey, Kiddo is a finalist for YALSA’s Excellence in Nonfiction Award, as well as a nominee for multiple other book awards. Author and illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka was kind enough to answer a few questions for The Hub.
Congratulations on Hey, Kiddo being nominated for multiple awards! As a reader, I particularly loved your chapter heading pages with all their fascinating details. As the creator, do you have a favorite page or panel in this book?
Thank you so much! My favorite aspect of an illustrated book is the page turn. It’s something that you really can only experience once the book is printed and in your hands. I just love that moment when you turn the pages and watch the story visually unfold. So…my most favorite page-turn in HEY, KIDDO is that scene when preschool Jarrett is struggling with the assignment to draw his family, and then in that moment when you turn the page, a double-page spread reveals the portrait drawn in crayon.
Your book shares such amazingly personal specifics about your life growing up. What type of research, if any, did you need to do while you were writing about your family and past?
I conducted a significant amount of research for this book. I didn’t just rely on my memories or my memories of the stories told to me in my youth. I interviewed family members, I dug through paperwork and family letters, and worked with the Worcester Historical Museum to trace where the Polish and Swedish immigrant communities settled when they arrived to Worcester, MA.
Is there anything that was edited out that you really loved, even if you decided it ultimately didn’t work for this book?
My time working at Camp Sunshine, a respite for families dealing with pediatric cancer, had a profound impact on me. What was once an entire chapter was whittled down to a few pages. Unfortunately, there was so much involved with that aspect of my teen life and it just didn’t fit the through-line of the book.
When a teen reader turns the last page of your book, what do you hope is going through their head?
I hope that they both see themselves (if they have familial addictions) or can better understand their peers (if they’re lucky enough to not have those conflicts). Ultimately, I hope that readers feel less alone and are empowered to own their own stories and not hide in shame.
Are you working on anything now that you’d like to tell us about?
I am working on so many new projects and I would love to tell you about them! (But I can’t because they are still top-secret.)
Finally, are there any books you’ve read recently that you really loved and want other people to know about?
Well, I really loved John Hendrix’s The Faithful Spy. What a remarkable story with breath-taking art. But since that book is also a finalist, I imagine you know about it… So instead, I will give a shout out to the following graphic novels that are still a few years away from publication: Mike Curato’s Flamer (about a young teen who comes out at summer camp) and Jonathan Todd’s Timid (about an African American middle schooler navigating life at a predominantly white school). But since you might want something to tide you over, look for Molly Knox Ostertag’s Witch Boy graphic novels—they follow the adventures of Aster, a boy who defies gender norms in his magical community by revealing his witch powers.
-Bridget Kiely, currently reading Blood Binds the Pack by Alex Wells