Jerry Craft’s New Kid

I hadn’t heard a thing about it when an ARC of Jerry Craft’s New Kid showed up in my mail last fall, but the description drew me in immediately:

Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.

As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?

I dove in and fell completely in love. This old white lady teaches in a New York City elite private school and Jordan’s experience felt so authentic and real, something experienced over and over by black students at my school. Not sure of my own white privileged perspective, I gave it to my school’s diversity coordinator who expressed excitement and enthusiasm, supporting my own feelings about the book. Craft, using his own experience and that of his children, has produced a narrative that captures sensitively and with humor the world of many students of color at my school and others in New York City.

Yes, it will be enjoyed by young graphic novel fans, but it is more than that. It is piercingly accurate about the life a child like Jordan experiences in a school like mine. Assumptions. Microaggressions. Lame liberal white teachers. Parental expectations. Code-switching. Navigating friendships. Figuring out one’s future.

I’m so glad to join the bandwagon of accolades for this splendid work for young readers.

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