Last week, Roxanne talked about a couple of graphic novels that have Newbery potential. She talked through how we can “read pictures” and where that fits into Newbery Criteria.
Another graphic title I want to discuss is HEY, KIDDO, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. It came out just about a week ago, so many may not have had a chance to read it yet, but I strongly encourage you all to get your hands on it. I read an advanced copy, so it may have changes to the art, and I’m waiting for my hold on the final copy.
I’m not going to get into discussion of age appropriateness. The title definitely falls into the up to and including age 14 age restrictions of the criteria.
HEY, KIDDO, is not fiction. It is, in fact, Krosoczka’s brutally honest memoir of being raised by his grandparents and about his relationship with his mother, who is an addict. It is also a story about how art helped save him.
The art in this book is exactly right for the story. It is imperfect. It is muted. It is raw. It is real. It is chaotic, as was the author’s life.
What, though, of the words themselves? For a graphic novel to work, the text must be tight. Each line must have meaning, whether expository or dialogue, that moves the story forward because you only have so much space to work with in terms of words, with so much taken up by art. The text in HEY, KIDDO walks the line perfectly. Krosoczka incorporates longer paragraphs of text to give background and move the story forward, and uses dialogue, alongside illustrations, to demonstrate character. He also manages to inject just the right amount of humor to keep the story from being too dark to withstand.
One of the things I really appreciate about HEY, KIDDO is that it tells a dark story to a young audience in a way that is completely appropriate, but without dumbing down the subject matter or talking down to the reader. The author allows each child to understand as much of the subtleties of the story as they are ready for. He assumes that his audience is bright enough, knowledgeable enough, and strong enough to take in his story, and he tellss it in a way that can work for so many young people with different experiences of their own – those who can relate to his experience as well as those who can’t.
Ultimately this book is one of challenge and triumph, a great coming-of-age story.
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Sharon McKellar
Sharon McKellar is the Supervising Librarian for Teen Services at the Oakland Public Library in California. She has served on the Rainbow List Committee, the Notable Children’s Recordings Committee, The Arbuthnot Honor Lecture Committee, and the 2015 Caldecott Committee. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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