October 2, 2019

New Kid by Jerry Craft

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 4:35 pm by suebe2

New Kid
by Jerry Craft
Harpercollins 2019

Jordan Banks is wild about his art.  He draws pictures of the world around him and longs to study art in school. But his parents send him to a posh private high school known for academics, not art.  From day one, Jordan feels like he doesn’t belong.

Sure, there are the normal new kid problems.  He has to navigate from one building to another.  He has to learn how each teacher works.

But there’s more.  He’s also one of the few students of color.

One teacher always calls him the wrong name.  He suspects he’s imagining it until he realizes she can’t keep the African-American students straight.  She even tosses in the names of students who are no longer there.  And really there aren’t so many that this should be difficult.

Then there is the fact that he’s a scholarship student.  Most people are okay with it but there is still that one teacher.  She means well but always says something racist while thinking she is being supportive and understanding.

Then she finds his art notebook.  He’s mad that she went through it and she’s “disappointed” because she thinks his comics show a bad attitude.  Never mind that it is a spot on middle school attitude and that these rich white people really are clueless, it isn’t what she wants to see from someone who should be grateful to be where he is.

Slowly but surely Jordan finds a place at his new school as he makes friends with Drew and Liam.  Liam may be white and rich like most of the students but he also feels isolated.  He doesn’t want his parents’ wealth to be an issue but he feels awkward that he is so much more than Jordan.

One of the funniest series of jokes in the book is between Jordan and Drew who is also African American. He too is often called by the wrong name.  The two confuse their fellow students and more than a few teachers by constantly calling each other made up names.  “Bye, D’aren!” “Bye, Jaylen!”

Craft’s book fills a need in children’s publishing for stories not only about African American students but about students who aren’t in gangs and come from loving, supportive families.  The stereotype that African American students are gang-banging thugs is also addressed in the book.

Sounds serious, doesn’t it?  And the issues are serious but Craft manages to address them with humor and it is the type of humor that will appeal to students who have dealt with the casual, clueless racism that is so prevalent in our society.

This book should definitely be in school libraries and on reading lists. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to pop over to the library and see what else they have by Craft.

–SueBE

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