“Hey, Kiddo” by Jar­rett J. Krosoczka, 320 pages, Graphix, $14.99, ages 12 and up

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In a 2012 TED Talk, Jar­rett Krosoczka, cre­ator of the pop­u­lar “Lunch Lady” mid­dle-grade graphic novel se­ries, com­pared grow­ing up as the child of a drug-ad­dicted par­ent to Char­lie Brown’s ex­pe­ri­ence of try­ing to kick the foot­ball. Ev­ery time young Jar­rett’s mom seemed com­mit­ted to stay­ing clean and be­com­ing a pos­i­tive pres­ence in his life, she would dis­ap­pear again. From the seeds of that talk grew this can­did graphic mem­oir, nom­i­nated for a Na­tional Book Award.

Krosoczka’s comic-strip art in­cor­po­rates per­sonal me­men­tos, such as child­hood draw­ings; let­ters his mother sent from jail or re­hab; and swatches of wall­pa­per from his ma­ter­nal grand­par­ents’ house in Worces­ter, Mass., where he was raised. His grand­par­ents, Joe and Shirl, act as his par­ents. Krosoczka of­fers a lov­ing por­trayal of them with­out sand­ing away their rough edges; they curse, smoke, drink, fight — and do ev­ery­thing they can to help their grand­son thrive. They en­cour­age him to sign up for classes at the Worces­ter Art Mu­seum. With Joe and Shirl’s un­wa­ver­ing sup­port, he de­vel­oped the artis­tic tal­ent he in­her­ited from his mother into a ca­reer that enables him not only to en­ter­tain chil­dren, but also to con­nect with them hon­estly about things that mat­ter.

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