New Kid

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File:New Kid Cover.jpg
AuthorJerry Craft
CountryUnited States
PublisherHarper Collins
Publication date
February 5, 2019
AwardsNewbery Medal, Coretta Scott King Award

New Kid is a 2019 graphic novel by Jerry Craft. The novel tells the story of a 12-year-old black boy, Jordan Banks, who experiences culture shock when he enrolls at a private school. Taking place over Jordan's freshman year at a prestigious private school, he has to adjust to a new school, experiences and witnesses microaggressions, and makes friends with other students. The book is semi-autobiographical for Craft, who based the book on his experiences in a private school and those of his two sons. While he wishes the book to be appreciated by a wide range of readers, Craft particularly wanted it to accurately reflect a present day African American experience.

The book was well received by critics, sold well, and won the 2020 Kirkus Prize, Newbery Medal, and Coretta Scott King Award. It was the first graphic novel to be awarded the Newbery Medal. The book's illustrations, using a unique amount of graphical styles, helped to achieve a balance between the book's humorous and dramatic elements. Its critical and award success was viewed at the time as an important achievement for graphic novels.


12-year-old Jordan Banks is a black boy who lives in Washington Heights. Jordan loves art and wishes to go to art school. Instead, his mother makes him go to Riverdale Academy Day (RAD) School, which she calls "one of the best schools in the state". However, RAD is not a very diverse school, having few students of color.

During his first day at Riverdale, Jordan is overwhelmed. He is helped by Liam Landers, a fellow student assigned to be Jordan's guide, and whose family has attended RAD for 3 generations. The two become friends. Jordan meets a variety of other students at the school, including Andy Peterson, an obnoxious jock; Alexandra, who always wears a sock puppet on her hand; DeAndre (one of the few other African American students at RAD), Winston, and Eric, three sophomores of often pick on lower grade students; and Drew Ellis and Maury, who are two of the few other African American students at RAD.

Jordan has some difficulties adjusting to RAD. These include discomfort over where to sit at lunch and not knowing how to act when a friend from the neighborhood sees him with Liam. Further challenges occur when his advisor discusses students on financial aid and calls Drew by the name of DeAndre. Jordan discovers that this kind of mislabeling happens to other black students and faculty at the school, even a black teacher who has been at the school for fourteen years.

Things start to slowly improve for Jordan. Forced to play a team sport for the first time, Jordan chooses soccer and struggles with the rules and the temperature, but scores an accidental goal in his first game. He also is able to have honest conversations with Drew about what it's like to be one of the few African Americans at RAD. His friendship with Liam also deepens including over video games. After a discussion with his grandfather, Jordan successfully mixes his neighborhood and school friends through video games. However, after Jordan corrects his neighborhood friends' grammar they give him the nickname "Private School".

There continue to be ups and downs for Jordan at school academically and socially. At first, Jordan dislikes his art teacher, though later he comes to appreciate what he's learning. While waiting to be picked up one day, Jordan learns that Alexandra wears a sock puppet because she doesn't want anyone to see the burns on her hand; through a bit of trickery Jordan gets the information about Alexandra's burn out which causes her to become more accepted by her peers. After ongoing tension between Jordan, Drew, and Andy, Andy dares Jordan and Drew to join the baseball team, which they do. When Drew and Andy get into an argument in the cafeteria, Andy slips on an apple and falls, but Drew is initially accused of pushing him. However, Jordan and several other classmates stick-up for Drew, stopping him from being disciplined.

As the school year draws to a close, Jordan's illustration is picked for the cover of the yearbook. Drew, Liam, and Jordan have become good friends and on the last day of school Jordan even dresses like Liam as a joke. Drew remains unsure if he'll return to RAD, almost having been suspended for the argument with Andy despite making the honor roll each semester. The book ends with Jordan with his neighborhood friends as they start their summer vacation.

Background and release

Author Jerry Craft described wanting to put as much into the book as he could, as he was unsure if he'd get a similar opportunity in the future, "By the end it was like overpacking a suitcase — I had to kind of sit on it to zip it up, because I was trying to put so much in for so many different people."[1] He expressed appreciation for the support his publisher, HarperCollins, gave him in trying to execute this vision.[1]

Riverdale Academy Day School is loosely based on Ethical Culture Fieldston School which Craft attended for high school.[1] Craft also cited Schoolhouse Rock! and Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids as inspirations.[2] He hoped that kids and adults would find the book equally entertaining.[2] His goal with New Kid was to create a character in Jordan with universal appeal.[1] However, writing a book that reflected the modern African American experience for African American readers was at the heart of why Craft wanted to write the book.[1][2] Craft credits his experience as a syndicated cartoonist with giving him experience to make the book humorous.[1] It was important to Craft that the book was funny because, "I think that as a people we have gotten so complacent in misery that we almost expect it" when it comes to portrays of African Americans.[1] He felt his cartoon work also gave him experience in tackling serious topics in "palatable" ways.[2]

The character of Jordan draws on traits from both Craft and his two sons.[1] Craft also drew on his sons' experiences in private schools.[1] He made some major revisions to the book after showing it to his two college aged children.[3] His son's experiences were important in helping in Craft's goal of having a contemporary rather than historical setting.[1] Craft talked with some of the teachers who he'd parodied who expressed that they learned something after reading the book.[1]

The book and audiobook were published February 5, 2019.[4]


The book explores identity, cross-racial friendships, and the effects of microaggressions.[5][6] By having Jordan get along better with Drew than Murray, Craft wished to show that friendships don't have to be based solely on race.[2] Elizabeth Bird, writing for School Library Journal, writes that, "Craft gathers together every possible microaggression in his arsenal and weaves them into a comprehensive story."[7] She goes on to write about the various ways that well meaning adults and obnoxious children can make a school uncomfortable for minorities.[7]

It also works as a traditional coming of age and school story.[5][8] Author Katie Egan writing in School Library Journal writes, "Craft has taken the daily dramas of middle school life (cafeteria hierarchy, social anxieties, and tween hallway banter) to an arresting and devastatingly accurate new level."[5] In the New York Times, author Victoria Jamieson notes that Jordan has to find his own way between his neighborhood and his school with his parents giving different examples of what that can look like; his mom works in the corporate world, while his dad runs a community center. Jamieson also cites the advice Jordan's grandfather gives him.[8]

Writing and illustrations

The graphic novel format allows for extra content for readers to interpret the actions and intents of the characters.[9] It can also show how Jordan is feeling, as when he is shown to be the size of an ant when he first enters the cafeteria.[4][10] The book uses a variety of graphic styles, including black and white drawings to represent Jordan's sketchbook, and full-color graphics with extra design elements like emojis, in other places.[11][12] Each new chapter is introduced through a humorous two-page spread.[11] Such humorous elements also help to provide balance for the serious elements of the story.[7]

Critics felt that some elements of the book worked better than others. Bird noted the episodic format of the book and how certain plot points seemed underdeveloped or unrealistic.[7] Gretchen Hardin in School Library Journal praised the black and white drawings for the expressive way they develop Jordan's character while suggesting that "the art loses a bit of detail during crowd scenes."[12]

Awards and reception

The book sold well becoming a bestseller.[13][14] The book was generally well reviewed, receiving a starred review in School Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly.[11][12] The Horn Book Magazine wrote that the graphic novel "stands out as a robust, contemporary depiction of a preteen navigating sometimes hostile spaces yet staying true to himself thanks to friends, family, and art."[11] Bird noted how New Kid is the rare graphic novel to have a non-superhero contemporary black teen as a protagonist.[7] Common Sense Media wrote in its review, "The move to middle school confuses many students and has inspired many comics, but this funny and heartfelt graphic novel covers new territory."[15] Wesley Jacques writing in The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, criticized the book's "uneven pacing and inconsistency in illustration" and for its failure to explore the colorism faced by darker skinned characters.[16] The New York Times named it one of the best children's books of 2019[17] and Polygon labeled it one of the 50 best graphic novels for kids.[18]

The book won the 2020 Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Award, which was seen as part of an awards "breakthrough" for graphic novels.[19] It was the first graphic novel to be awarded the Newbery Medal.[20] Craft had been hopeful New Kid would be recognized with the Newbery Medal after it did well in several mock Newbery Awards and was shocked when he received a second phone call informing him about the Coretta Scott King Award win.[21] Krishna Grady, chair of the 2020 Newbery committee, praised the book in announcing its win, "Respectful of its child audience, it explores friendship, race, class and bullying in a fresh and oftentimes humorous manner."[22] The book also won the 2020 Kirkus Prize.[10]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Sutton, Roger. "Jerry Craft Talks with Roger". The Horn Book. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e Dar, Mahnaz (February 5, 2019). "Jerry Craft on Being "The New Kid"". School Library Journal. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  3. ^ Quattlebaum, Mary (March 31, 2019). "Jerry Craft shares school experience and love of drawing with main character in 'New Kid'". Washington Post. Retrieved February 6, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Children's Book Review: New Kid by Jerry Craft. HarperCollins". Publishers Weekly. November 26, 2018. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c Cunningham, Katie Egan (August 21, 2019). "Books Can Give Kids a Sense of Belonging. Share These Titles and Set the Tone for a New School Year". School Library Journal. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  6. ^ Yorio, Kara (July 25, 2019). "Books Navigate the Good, Bad—and Often Complicated—World of Middle School Friendships". School Library Journal. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d e Bird, Elizabeth (April 17, 2019). "Review of the Day: New Kid by Jerry Craft". Fuse 8 Productions. School Library Journal. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  8. ^ a b Jamieson, Victoria (March 8, 2019). "Graphic Novels That Will Keep Kids Reading". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  9. ^ Cunningham, Katie (May 20, 2019). "New Kid by Jerry Craft is a Middle School Must-Read". Classroom Bookshelf. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  10. ^ a b NEW KID by Jerry Craft. Kirkus. November 15, 2018. Retrieved February 5, 2020.
  11. ^ a b c d Gall, Patrick (February 12, 2019). "Review of New Kid". The Horn Book. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  12. ^ a b c Hardin, Gretchen (November 1, 2018). "New Kid". School Library Journal. Retrieved March 6, 2020.
  13. ^ Juris, Carolyn (February 8, 2019). "This Week's Bestsellers: February 10, 2020". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved February 25, 2020.
  14. ^ "Graphic Books and Manga - Best Sellers - The New York Times". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  15. ^ "New Kid - Book Review". February 27, 2019. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  16. ^ Jacques, Wesley (2019). "New Kid by Jerry Craft". Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books. 72 (5): 201–202. doi:10.1353/bcc.2019.0011. ISSN 1558-6766.
  17. ^ "The 25 Best Children's Books of 2019". The New York Times. December 2, 2019. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  18. ^ Schenkel, Katie (December 20, 2019). "50 of the best comics for kids". Polygon. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  19. ^ Yorio, Kara (January 28, 2020). "Graphic Novels Break Through at the 2020 Youth Media Awards". School Library Journal. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  20. ^ León, Concepción de (January 27, 2020). "Graphic Novel Wins Newbery Medal for the First Time". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 5, 2020.
  21. ^ Maughan, Shannon (January 28, 2020). "Jerry Craft's Newbery Win Was an Unforeseeable Dream". Publisher's Weekly. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
  22. ^ Yorio, Kara (January 27, 2020). "'New Kid' Makes History as First Graphic Novel To Win Newbery; Caldecott Goes To 'The Undefeated'". School Library Journal. Retrieved February 6, 2020.
Preceded by
Merci Suárez Changes Gears
Newbery Medal recipient
Succeeded by
When You Trap a Tiger
Preceded by
The Undefeated
Coretta Scott King Award winner
Succeeded by
Before the Ever After