Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Two Graphic Novels: Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka and To Kill a Mockingbird by Fred Fordham

Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction by Jarrett J. Krosoczka is a graphic memoir about the author and illustrator's life. The book begins by telling about Krosoczka's mother and her family, how his mother became pregnant and was rejected by the father of her child and how baby Jarrett ended up spending most of his time living with his grandparents while his mother flitted in and out of his life, writing to him but seldom showing up.

Krosoczka's life was interesting for the colorful language of his grandparents, his mother's method of encouraging his art from afar, and how he handled the challenges of not knowing who his father was and what his mother was up to. Eventually, he learned the truth: his mother was an addict who came and went from home to the street to jail or halfway houses. Because she occasionally wrote to him and showed up when she was able, Krosoczka knew his mother loved him but he always missed having her in his life when she was away.

Highly recommended - I don't feel like I'm doing an adequate job of describing Hey, Kiddo, so I'll just skip to the bottom line. This is a highly readable graphic novel that gives you a distinct sense of what it's like to grow up not really knowing either parent and how erratic the life of an addict is. It also tells about the author's artistic journey, how his talented mother and his caring grandparents encouraged his art, and what he learned from art instructors that influenced him, as well as his stylistic choices. It's a touching, deeply meaningful story about coming through an unusual and sometimes difficult childhood and the destructiveness of addiction to the addict and everyone around her. I found this was one of the clearest graphic novels I've ever read. Usually, authors rely a little too heavily on the artwork to do the explaining but there's plenty of text and I didn't find the art confusing as I often do.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, illustrated and adapted by Fred Fordham is a graphic adaptation of the classic novel by Harper Lee. You can tell what you're getting into by the prominence of Harper Lee's name on the cover and the words "illustrated and adapted". Sure enough, Fred Fordham -- the illustrator who adapted the novel -- almost exclusively used words directly pulled from the novel. He only altered them when necessary for clarity (I couldn't tell when that occurred: I just know it because the author said so).

I've only read To Kill a Mockingbird once, but it's one of those books that sticks with you because it's so brilliant and meaningful. Still, there were times I didn't understand what was going on in a particular frame or set of frames. But, in general, when I couldn't figure out what was happening it was quickly clarified, so a handful of frames that perplexed me was never enough to cause a problem. Also, the farther you get into this particular graphic novel, the better it becomes.

Highly recommended - An excellent adaptation of a classic novel into graphic novel form. The characters are clearly identifiable and there were only a few instances in which I couldn't tell exactly what was happening but the confusion didn't last long. I particularly appreciated the use of Harper Lee's actual wording. I didn't know it was hers till the author's note but I presumed so because of the language, which is pretty distinctive and a little old-fashioned.

Additional notes:

Hey, Kiddo has a particular colored palatte that was a deliberate choice and a little unusual -- not full color but limited to about 4 colors. The finished copy of To Kill a Mockingbird appears to be full color. I have an ARC that's black and white but I looked online and found a video at Amazon of the author and he talks about using watercolor washes and shows himself coloring in some of the images. It looks beautiful and I think maybe the final, colored version will make some of those frames that I had trouble with make sense. In at least one case, there was a series of frames that were so dark that they were almost entirely black. Colored, I would imagine the characters stand out better, even though the reason they were dark was because they took place at night. At any rate, the graphic novelization of To Kill a Mockingbird would probably make a super gift for those who claim it as their favorite book. In my case, it made sense of at least one scene that I had trouble understanding when I read the book, years ago, so it's also great for anyone who loves the language but may have been slightly baffled by a scene or two.

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  1. I'm interested to read Hey Kiddo for the artistic bent- but not sure about the adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. I'm always leery what other authors/illustrators will have done with my favorite classics. Still haven't picked up the graphic novel version of Wrinkle in Time.

    1. I didn't realize there's a graphic novelization of A Wrinkle in Time! But, yes, I understand that completely. What's really great about To Kill a Mockingbird is that he almost entirely used words directly pulled from the novel -- so, it's quite faithful to the book. You can see a video of the author talking about creating the graphic novel at Amazon. It's short but it's really interesting.

      I definitely enjoyed hearing about Jarrett Krosoczka's artistic life and how his mother, grandparents, and teachers encouraged him.


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