I placed a hold on this book because of rave reviews without realizing the author , Jarrett J. Kroscozka, was known for his juvenile graphic novels about a Lunch Lady who fights crime and children's books Good Night, Monkey Boy and Peanut Butter and Jellyfish . Hey, Kiddo How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father and Dealt with Family Addiction is an honest and powerful depiction of his family and all its complications. When asked to draw a picture of his family in preschool, Jarrett was confused. Not only was his mom incarcerated for heroin related charges, but he had never met his father. Instead he was being raised by his grandparents who were in their early 80's. Both his grandparents, Joseph and Shirley, had strong personalities and even stronger opinions on life, but they loved him fiercely. His grandfather was a self-made man who invented ball valves and encouraged Mr. Kroscozka to take art at the local college when it was no longer supported at his school.
What stands out about this book was how old letters and drawings were incorporated seamlessly into the memoir's comic panels. Among them are a drawing his grandfather did while serving in the military. He also includes his own drawing from preschool where he was asked to draw a picture of his family that depicts him, Joseph and Shirley. The novel also shares the goodness that has happened in his life and the fact that you don’t need biological parents to survive life, you just need a really good support system. His overarching theme is "you have the power to make your family" whether it's your grandparents as your parents, your best friends as your siblings, etc. Its strength is his willingness to show the flaws in his family's behavior, including his own, and his choice in many cases to let his art speak for itself.
This is not an easy book, nor a comfortable one, but it is an important book. This is a book that screams "You are not alone" to kids who desperately need to hear it. It shows that circumstances do not define you, that it is possible to overcome, to live through it, to become and be something and someone amazing.