Graphic Novel (Audiobook)


Krosoczka, Jarrett J. Hey, Kiddo. Read by Jarrett Krosoczka and a full cast. New York: Scholastic Audiobooks, 2018. Unabridged, 2 hr., 50 min.


Jarrett’s family life has always been a little bit out of the ordinary. As a toddler, he lived with his drug-addicted mother, Leslie, who often let strange men in the house and wasn’t very available to her three-year-old son. Joe and Shirley, Leslie’s parents, quickly stepped in to raise their grandson from his toddlerhood all the way through high school graduation. Hey, Kiddo deals with Jarrett’s childhood and teenage pain: Although Leslie makes promises of recovery, she hardly ever follows through, and Jarrett knows next to nothing about his father. But this book is also a thank-you letter to Jarrett’s grandparents: Though a little vulgar and a little prone to overdrinking, they do everything they can to make sure their grandson feels loved, and introduce him to his greatest passion, art. The book also gives thanks to Jarrett’s next-door neighbor and childhood friend, Pat; his ever-listening aunt, Holly; his art comic instructor, Mark Lynch; and his long-lost father and half siblings, the Hennessys. Although Jarrett’s childhood is full of inner turmoil against his mother, Jarrett slowly comes to a place of forgiveness and peace, eventually realizing that his mother does love him despite her imperfections. The afterward includes biographical information about Jarrett’s life after college, as well as the lives of his mother and grandparents.


There’s no question why this audiobook adaptation of the graphic novel has received so many awards: The listening experience is truly incredible. While fictional audiobooks include a full cast of “characters,” the cast of Hey, Kiddo is uniquely equipped to allow almost the entire voice cast to be made up of the actual people that Jarrett writes about in his memoir; this “real” cast allows listeners to truly immerse themselves in the story. Jarrett manages to find voice parts for just about everyone who is involved in his memoir. Jarrett voices himself, of course, but his friend Pat also voices himself, his aunt Holly voices herself, his long-lost father, Richard, voices himself, and even his old art teacher, Mr. Shilale, voices himself. As an added bonus, Jarrett’s daughter voices his kid self while Pat’s son voices Pat’s kid self. Even the baby noises used in the audiobook to announce Jarrett’s foray into the world are noises that Jarrett recorded from the mouth of his own newborn son! Realistic sound effects bring the story to life. Shirley’s squeals as she watches Jarrett’s runaway hamster scurry across the floor are so convincing that listeners might almost believe they are real recordings of the incident. Authentic 90s music like the Club Nouveau’s remix of “Lean On Me” also add greater depth to the audiobook experience.

But while the quality of Hey, Kiddo’s audio is phenomenal, some portions of the storytelling seem random and unfocused. Why, for example, does Jarrett include details about high school gym class and the vulgarity of the men’s locker room? Jarrett doesn’t have any life-changing moments there, and it’s no secret that high school language can be crude. Young Jarrett’s sadness about the destruction of his beloved backyard parking lot seemed equally unfocused. The anecdote doesn’t really illustrate anything about Jarrett or about anyone else. At other moments, I wish Jarrett’s storytelling had more depth. In the epilogue, Jarrett expresses his gratitude for his father and half-siblings. Yet, the story itself hardly mentions them. For most of the story, Jarrett is angry at is father or hurling expletive-filled messages his way. A deeper explanation of Jarrett’s reconciliation would have been helpful. Jarrett also mentions Leslie’s boyfriend Miguel during a few scenes, but then quietly drops him from the storyline, leaving listeners wondering where he went.

Still, while the memoir doesn’t always have focus, it does have authenticity. Jarrett’s memoir is frank—frank about Jarrett’s inner turmoil, frank about his mother’s battle with heroin, and frank about the ways he found peace with his past. Teens who have found themselves in a similar situation will feel understood, hopeful, and encouraged. Teens who haven’t had experiences like Jarrett’s will find a story that inspires empathy and awareness. Young adult librarians should find a place on their shelf for Hey, Kiddo.


Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2019

Audie Award Winner, 2020

Odyssey Award Winner, 2020

Booklist Editors’ Choice: Audio for Youth, 2019

Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature Honor, 2019

National Book Award Finalist, 2018

YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist, 2019

From AudioFile: “A full cast of more than 40 performers brings this powerful graphic novel memoir vividly to life. . . . With music, sound effects, and affecting performances, listeners feel like they are at the dinner table with him and his hard-drinking, foul-mouthed grandparents in Worcester, Massachusetts. As co-producer and co-director, Krosoczka has created a uniquely personal audiobook, casting family and friends in the production. . . . making every interaction incredibly authentic.”

From Booklist: “There have been a slew of graphic memoirs published for youth in the past couple of years, but the raw, confessional quality and unguarded honesty of Krosoczka’s contribution sets it apart from the crowd.”


  • Jarrett Krosoczka found his voice through art and comics. After highlighting Hey, Kiddo in the teen section of the library, invite a local comic artist to give a young adult presentation about creating comics. Encourage teens to write their own comic panels. Print out comic panel handouts for teens to take home. Allow them to send in their finished panels and create an online showcase of teen’s comics on the library’s website.
  • Create a display of biographical graphic memoirs (like Hey, Kiddo) for teens to browse. The following books are possible candidates:
    • Ha, Robin. Almost American Girl. ISBN 9780062685100
    • Feder, Tyler. Dancing at the Pity Party. ISBN 9780525553021
    • Lewis, John, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (illustrator). March: Book Three. ISBN 9781603094023
  • With teens, listen to part of Hey, Kiddo on audiobook. Invite teens to create their own short anecdote as an audiobook with sound effects. Then have a listening party, allowing teens to share their work with others.
  • Put out a display of some of the 2020 Audie Awards finalists including Hey, Kiddo. Then allow teens to vote on their favorite audiobooks and hold an awards ceremony for the favorite pick.
    • Berry, Julie. Lovely War. Published by Penguin Random House Audio.
    • Nazemian, Adb. Like a Love Story. Published by HarperAudio.
    • Thomas, Angie. On the Come Up. Published by HarperAudio.
    • Acevedo, Elizabeth. With the Fire on High. Published by HarperAudio.

*Note—This book review was created as an assignment for a course at Texas Woman’s University.

A Historical Novel (Audiobook)


Vawter, Vince. Paperboy. Read by Lincoln Hoppe. Portland, ME: Listening Library, 2013. Unabridged, 6 hr., 11 min.


When he accidentally “busts” his friend, Rat, playing baseball, Vince agrees to take his friend’s paper route for the summer. There’s just one problem: Vince can hardly get a word out without stuttering up a storm, and he’s terrified of trying to talk to people he that don’t know about his condition. With lots of encouragement from Mam—his best friend and colored caretaker—and from his parents, Vince sets out on his month-long stint as paperboy. Vince’s route takes him to Mrs. Worthington, an attractive woman with sad eyes; Mr. Shapiro, an educated seaman and patient friend; TV Boy, a name that Vince makes up for a boy who always seems to be sitting in front of the television; and Ara T, an unkind junkman that Mam forbids Vince from talking to. Although Vince struggles to accept himself and to navigate the complex questions of life as he makes the transition from childhood to adolescence, his paper route provides Vince with life experiences that make Vince a better human being. By summer’s end, Vince has seen and experienced the effects of hate, sadness, and injustice, but he’s also learned where to go to give and receive kindness, love, and acceptance. The author’s note at the end of the story reveals the autobiographical nature of Paperboy and provides readers with deeper insights about stuttering.


Vince, or “Little Man” as Mam calls him, is a believable 11-year-old boy: He’s big into sports—baseball specifically—like many other boys his age; he has his first crush on his neighbor Mrs. Worthington; and he begins to see past the innocent lens of childhood into the harsh realities of his world. Why, for example, does Mam have to sit in the back of the bus? Why is Mrs. Worthington always drunk? Are Vince’s parents who he thinks they are? Why does Mam distrust the junkman Ara T? And why does Vince have a stutter? Readers will journey with Vince through one eventful summer and into young adulthood as Vince learns more about the world and his place within it.

Listening to the book in audio format was especially powerful. The narrator did an exceptional job of recreating the pausing, hissing stutters of Vince’s speech, giving readers a better understanding of Vince’s frustrations as he tries to get out the words he so desperately wants to say. The other characters—Mam, Mr. Spiro, Mrs. Worthington—were easily distinguishable due to the narrator’s skillful navigation of each character’s unique inflection, accent, and tone. The narration was engaging and easy to listen to, making it a great audiobook for long family car trips. And the final author’s note spoken by the protagonist himself is a special treat for invested listeners.

The story’s plot, however, may not catch many young readers’ attention. Although the story does include a man intent on committing a murder, most of the story is introspective and a little bit humdrum. Vince spends much of the text explaining the limitations he feels due to his stutter, the philosophical discussions he has with an educated neighbor, and the mundane daily happenings of the customers along his paper route. Adults may find this book a hard sell due to the book’s less than exciting plot, and young readers may not find it especially easy to connect with this slice-of-life memoir of the late 1950s.

Still, the themes of the story are timeless. While Vince begins the story trying to “fix” himself, he unashamedly accepts his limitations—stutter and all—by the book’s end. At the beginning of Paperboy, Vince tries to stay in the background, avoiding interaction rather than risk embarrassing himself and others. His experiences bringing paper—and his voice—to the doors of many houses helps him to stand tall and dare to be different. So while this book might require more coaxing than the standard middle-grade fare, its powerful message is one that many kids will take to heart.


Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014

John Newbery Medal Honor Book, 2014

Washington Post Best Children’s Books, 2013

From AudioFile: “Lincoln Hoppe’s narration is pure perfection in this story about ‘Little Man,’ an 11-year-old boy with a stutter so severe that he can’t even say his own name. . . . Hoppe brings out Little Man’s endearing vulnerability and portrays the stutter with a tender ease and grace that will make listeners feel empathy and hope for the boy. . . . The afterword is read by author, and stutterer, Vince Vawter, making this an extraordinary listening and learning experience.”

From Kirkus: “Carefully crafted language, authenticity of setting and quirky characters that ring fully true all combine to make this a worthwhile read. Although Little Man’s stutter holds up dialogue, that annoyance also powerfully reflects its stultifying impact on his life. An engaging and heartfelt presentation that never whitewashes the difficult time and situation as Little Man comes of age.”


  • Discuss the significance of “TV Boy” in Vince’s story. How does Vince’s perception of the boy change over time? Invite students to get to know someone they may not know very well like Vince did, and teach middle schoolers the basics of American Sign Language.
  • Read Paperboy and I Talk Like a River together. Discuss how the stutter affects each boy and how each one learns how to overcome his challenges.
    • Scott, Jordan, and Sydney Smith (illustrator). I Talk Like a River. ISBN 9780823445592
  • Vince is a skilled baseball player. Set out a sports display of other middle grade sports books such as the following:
    • Rallison, Janette. Life, Love, and the Pursuit of Free Throws. ISBN 9780802788986
    • Alexander, Lori, and Allan Drummond (illustrator). A Sporting Chance: How Paralympics Founder Ludwig Guttmann Saved Lives with Sports.ISBN 9781328580795
    • Alexander, Kwame. Booked. ISBN 9780544570986
  • Put out a display of all the 2014 Newbery Award finalists including Paperboy. Then allow middle-graders to vote on their favorite title and hold an awards ceremony for the favorite pick.
    • DiCamillo, Kate, and K. G. Campbell (illustrator). Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. ISBN 9780763660406
    • Black, Holly. Doll Bones. ISBN 9781416963981
    • Henkes, Kevin. The Year of Billy Miller. ISBN 9780062268150
    • Timberlake, Amy. One Came Home. ISBN 9780375869259

*Note—This book review was created as an assignment for a course at Texas Woman’s University.