All Jordan Banks wants to do is go to art school. Instead, his parents send him to the prestigious Riverdale Academy Day School (which is far from his neighborhood and far from diverse), so he will gain opportunities that he might not otherwise. Out of his depth, Jordan finds himself struggling to fit in. Jerry Craft won the 2020 Newbery and Coretta Scott King awards for New Kid, and there are several good reasons for those accolades.

One of the great things about New Kid is that it strikes a balance between serious and light. It follows Jordan through his first year at his new school, where he has new experiences such as trying soccer and baseball and makes new friends, all while dealing with the microaggressions that people of color face in a predominantly white environment. While these issues are not played down, they never overwhelm the main narrative of a kid trying to figure out his new school. The result is a warm, thoughtful, and humorous story.

Another strength is the cast, particularly Jordan. Through his playful cartoons, the reader gets a clear sense of Jordan as a person, and Craft includes little details that give the character life, such as his fondness for his hoodie and love for superheroes. Craft strikes a balance between sweet, smart, and uncertain in a way that is highly relatable and engaging. The supporting cast are also distinct with their own unique quirks and struggles, and their interactions are true to life.

In addition to a strong story and protagonist, the artwork makes the action easy to follow and captures the actions and emotions throughout the book. Craft also uses the artwork to make his most serious points in a humorous way. For example, there’s a scene at the school book sale where most of the books featuring people of color have titles such as “Escape From Slavery,” their “empowering” messages the bookseller cries exaggerated tears over—a decision that make his points about bigger issues without overwhelming the main story.

Public and school libraries in particular will want to make sure to have it on the shelves as it is a great book for young people, and educators will be excited to know that there is a teaching guide to use in the classroom. Quill Tree Books (which is part of Harper) sets the age range at 8 to 12, and that is a good starting point; that being said, teens, especially those in middle school, will likely also enjoy New Kid. Other reviews have suggested that fans of Raina Telgemeier and Gene Luen Yang will enjoy this title. Because of its relatable protagonist and strong coming-of-age plot, readers who enjoy the work of Victoria Jamieson (author of Roller Girl), Nidhi Chanani’s Pashmina, and Shannon Hale’s Real Friends should also enjoy New Kid.

New Kid
By Jerry Craft
ISBN: 9780062691200
Quill Tree Books, 2019
Publisher Age Rating: 8 to 12

Browse for more like this title
Character Traits: Black
Creator Highlights: Own Voices, BIPOC Creator

  • Megan

    | She/Her

    Features Writer

    Megan earned her MLIS from Simmons College and is currently the evening librarian at Bay State College in Massachusetts. She satisfies her voracious appetite for graphic novels and manga through regular visits to her local public libraries and puts her love of graphic novels to good use by adding to Bay State’s collection whenever possible. Megan maintains a personal blog, Ferret with a Strobe Light, where she discusses awesome books she’s read lately. When not engaged in reading or library work, she likes running, drinking tea, and working on her own stories and art.

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