‘Waupaca reads Krosoczka’
Writer raised by grandparents due to mother’s addiction
By Angie Landsverk
The Waupaca Area Public Library is hosting a community read event before a best-selling author visits Waupaca next month.
Jarrett J. Krosoczka was a finalist in last year’s National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.
He was nominated for “Hey, Kiddo,” his graphic memoir about growing up with a mother who was addicted to drugs.
Krosoczka’s mother began using heroin when she was 13.
By the time he was about 3 years old, Krosoczka’s grandfather gained legal custody of him.
His grandparents raised him, and Krosoczka was a teen when he learned the name of his father.
Like his mother, Krosoczka loved to draw.
He had many mentors.
Krosoczka is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design.
An author and illustrator, his work includes picture books, as well as the “Lunch Lady,” “Platypus Police Squad” and “Star Wars: Jedi Academy” series.
Displays of his books are in various departments at the library, offering people of all ages the opportunity to read his work prior to his visit on Feb. 4.
“Hey, Kiddo” is a young adult book.
“I think being a parent himself helped him write it,” said Sue Abrahamson, the children’s librarian.
She describes it as a survival story and about how it takes a community to raise a family.
Families in this area are raising their grandchildren due to the ripple effects of drug addiction, she said.
“Every parent wants what is best for their kids,” Abrahamson said.
The library likes connecting readers with writers.
It has been one of her personal goals to bring Krosoczka here since hearing him speak at a Wisconsin Library Association Conference.
Community support is making it happen.
On Feb. 4, Krosoczka is speaking to students at Waupaca Middle School.
Students in the district are receiving a copy of one of his books before his visit.
The presentation for the public is at 6:30 p.m. that same day, in the library’s lower-level meeting rooms.
Abrahamson said his 45-minute presentation is being followed by questions and then a book signing.
Books are for sale at the public presentation only.
The library is also hosting two other events related to his visit.
Krosoczka’s illustrations are on display in the library’s exhibit room through Feb. 23.
“When Sue said he was coming, I was looking to fill the schedule,” said Liz Kneer, the exhibit room’s coordinator.
The exhibit includes his finished and unfinished work.
“It will be a neat way to see how his process works,” Kneer said. “It’s a great way to lead into Youth Art Month.”
There is a space where visitors may use a light table to trace and recreate his work and pin it the wall, she said.
There is also an area where people may name their own everyday heroes.
In addition, the exhibit includes a table with information about mental health and addiction resources.
That is related to a panel discussion taking place at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28, in the library’s lower-level meeting rooms.
The discussion is about mental health and addiction, the topics of Krosoczka’s latest book.
Kneer said people may submit questions ahead of time, at the exhibit.
The panel discussion includes representatives from ThedaCare, Catalpa, Waupaca County’s drug court, the community resource center, sheriff’s office, county department of health and human services, Oxford House and NAMI.
Library Director Peg Burington said it is open to the community and in response to what is being seen in the community.
Abrahamson said the community has these resources because people recognized the need for them.
“Some students – when they hear him speak – will see themselves and feel empowered,” Abrahamson said.
For students who do not feel that way, she hopes they feel empathy for their peers.
Kneer said she has had conversations with her two daughters about how there are children their ages in these situations.
“Hey, Kiddo” has adult themes, Burington said.
“The idea is to start a conversation,” she said.
They said for some people, it will be their first time reading a graphic novel.
“There is so much illustration,” Burington said. “You see what he wants you to think and feel.”