Five questions for Jerry Craft

New Kid fans rejoice! The third book in author/illustrator Jerry Craft’s wildly popular, bestselling, and highly decorated (by the Newbery Medal and Coretta Scott King Author Award, for example) graphic novel series is here; although its title is School Trip (HarperAlley/Quill Tree/HarperCollins, 9–13 years), an end-of-middle-school trip to Paris(!) feels completely at home on our summer reading list.

1. Has your artistic process changed at all since the success of New Kid?

Jerry Craft: It has in the sense that I am so much more aware of what my fans want to see from the characters. With New Kid, there was no pressure at all because no one knew me or the book. Class Act was a little different because I read reviews from fans (I try to read them all, even though other authors warn me not to) where they mention what they like and what they wished I had done. So, since School Trip is in theory the final book, I wanted to make sure that I tied up all the loose ends. This was the first book that I wrote as a script, instead of doing thumbnails of the art and text at the same time.

2. Did anything still surprise you about your characters while writing/drawing their third book?

JC: Absolutely! I was surprised at how much fun I had writing the characters Maury and Ramon. They have been in the background for the first two books, so I wanted to give them, and Samira, a chance to shine. And I have gotten a great response!

3. Why was it important to you to show Jordan traveling?

JC: When have you ever seen African American protagonists travel anywhere but down South to see their grandparents? We grow up never thinking world travel is an option. My dad was almost seventy when he got on a plane for the first time. He took me to the Bahamas when I graduated from college, and we went to a different place every year for the next twenty years. But never to Europe. So when some friends invited me to Paris a few years ago, I gave them every excuse under the sun why I couldn’t go. My reaction was, “I can’t go to Paris!” but I had no real reason as to why. Finally, and reluctantly, I went, and I had an AMAZING time. Two years later I took my sons and got to see them discovering the city. I don’t mind having School Trip criticized for the writing or the art, but anyone who says that their students won’t be able to relate to kids of color going to Paris is doing those students a disservice. (And by the way, those same people think that students can relate with no problem to superheroes, or wizards!)

4. Do you have any favorite travel tips?

JC: I like eating the foods that the places I’m visiting are known for. I’ve had Philly cheesesteaks in Philly, Buffalo wings in Buffalo, and New England clam chowder in New England. Live life like the locals.

5. What do you think high school will be like for Jordan and friends?

JC: I think they’ll be a much closer group of friends. They’ve all grown so much from the first book. And there may even be hope for Andy.

I also want to take a moment to thank all the people who have supported me along the way. I couldn’t have done it without you!

From the April 2023 issue of Notes from the Horn Book: Summer Reading. For past years’ summer reading lists from The Horn Book, click on the tag summer reading.

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