CHLOE COOGAN & JULIA WALKER
When people imagine children’s books and graphic novels, they usually think of an innocent tale with happy endings. Children’s books usually are not associated with drug addiction or dysfunctional families, but author Jarret Krosocza did just that with his graphic novel “Hey, Kiddo.”
With his book, Krosocza showed a somber perspective on family grappling with addiction. He opened up about the topic and hopes to help kids with addicted parents feel less alone.
Krosoczka recently gave a talk at Connecticut College about his journey of writing “Hey Kiddo” and dealing with his family addiction. He has also presented two Ted Talks which have accumulated over two million views, and his name was lit up in Times Square when children voted his book “Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute” their favorite book.
From a young age, Krosocza knew that he loved art, and his mother was the most talented artist he knew. Growing up, Krosocza’s favorite cartoons were “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” “James and the Giant Peach,” and “Bunnicula.” In elementary school, he would go home and use the paper and manila folders in his grandparent’s dining room to create his own books with words and drawings. He began by drawing Snoopy and Garfield when he was young, then Disney characters, and eventually superheroes. He also experimented with animation movies and was a cartoonist for his school newspaper.
“My imagination saved my life,” said Krosocza in his talk at Connecticut College.
In preparation of writing “Hey, Kiddo,” Krosocza reflected on his years growing up by reviewing old sketchbooks, interviewing family members, looked through old letters, smelling the perfume and aftershave his grandparents used, and looking at old toys and family pictures that brought him back to his childhood. As soon as Krosocza began writing, his mom got arrested again.
The colored themes for the book were black, white, gray, and burnt orange, which create a dreary and mysterious theme throughout the book. Krosocza also worked on creating movement and action in his drawings.
“There’s a lot of rhythm in the book, with how I tried to lay out the art work. It feels like you are in the room with the characters,” said Krosoczka.
One of the most difficult parts of creating the graphic novel was becoming vulnerable and sharing his family’s struggles. At first, Krosocza didn’t talk about his mother, but he eventually challenged himself to share the story.
“There are parts of [the book] I would only whisper to people before,” said Krosocza. “This was a story I wanted to write, but now I felt a responsibility to write. I had emotions, and I had a unique way to tell it.” Krosocza felt obligated to share his story for his younger audiences that might be dealing with the same issues.