“New Kid” by Jerry Craft hit the shelves last Feb., yet the buzz about this graphic novel has yet to die down. It could be due to its recent success, winning the Corretta Scott King Award, or maybe because it is the first graphic novel to win the Newberry Medal.
Even though this book deserved every award it has received, the middle-grade plot is what truly resonates with readers.
Seventh grader Jordan Banks has just become the new kid at the prestigious Riverdale Academy Day School, and he has a few concerns. Like anyone who has ever moved to a new town or school, it makes sense to be nervous entering unfamiliar territory. For Jordan, who is African-American, starting at a new school that is primarily Caucasian was definitely going to be a challenge for him.
As he makes his way through his new school, Jordan finds that there are small nuances of racist behavior that make him feel uncomfortable. When his soccer coach explains to him, “I know you can run fast” and then quickly apologizes or when another white student asks him outright “What are you anyway?”, Jordan is confused and unsure of how to respond when those types of statements are made.
Not to mention, several instances where his homeroom teacher calls his friend, Drew, “Deandre” multiple times and does not seem to care about the negative effect that it has on Drew or Jordan. Since Drew and Jordan come from similar areas and are both new to the school, the two quickly develop a bond.
Even at the book fair, there were tons of books highlighting heroes and characters that were mainly Caucasian while there was a separate section labeled, “African-American Literature.” This section showcased titles such as “Escaped from Jail,” “Escaped from Slavery” and “Escaped.” This scene was quite powerful as Craft was making a point that there is still a lack of books that feature people of color in positive and relatable situations.
Craft has a way of including themes of racism, racial identity, adolescence and humor with a side of brevity, that is perfect for his target audience. This graphic novel is full of funny moments that are relatable and teach kids that it is okay to stand up for yourself, especially if you are being treated unfairly. Jordan Banks is a well-crafted character who will, for sure, inspire any young reader.
This book may be geared towards a younger audience, but it is a story that teens, young adults and even adults can enjoy and learn from.