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Review of New Kid

New Kid
by Jerry Craft; illus. by the author
Intermediate, Middle School    Harper/HarperCollins    249 pp.    g
2/19    978-0-06-269120-0    $21.99    
Paper ed.  978-0-06-269119-4    $12.99    
e-book ed.  978-0-06-269121-7    $10.99 

Craft’s engaging graphic novel follows Jordan Banks (an African American seventh grader from Washington Heights) through his first year at the prestigious Riverdale Academy Day School (RAD). Jordan has his sights set on an art-focused high school, but his mother sees RAD as a necessary means to “open up new doors.” Jordan’s father is less comfortable with immersing his son in a predominantly white school and worries about RAD’s lack of diversity. Those concerns are indeed merited, as Jordan confronts both covert and overt racism on a daily basis, from the code-switching necessary to manage the bus ride to and from school, to the two-dimensional tales of black sorrow available at the book fair, to being made to feel insignificant when mistaken for another student of color. Slowly, however, he begins to develop supportive relationships with RAD classmates of different races. Jordan documents his thoughts, feelings, and observations in his sketchbook, shown in interludes throughout the main narrative. Craft’s full-color comics art is dynamic and expressive, generously adorned by emojis, arrows, and imaginative elements such as the small winged cherubs who frequently hover over Jordan’s shoulders; each chapter is introduced by a witty, foreshadowing double-page spread. This school story 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.

From the January/February 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Patrick Gall

Patrick Gall works as a librarian for children in preschool through eighth grade at the Catherine Cook School in Chicago.

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