Review of Class Act

Class Act
by Jerry Craft; illus. by the author
Intermediate, Middle School    HarperAlley/Quill Tree/HarperCollins    256 pp.    g
10/20    978-0-06-288551-7    $22.99
Paper ed.  978-0-06-288550-0    $12.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-288552-4    $10.99

Puberty is on the horizon for thirteen-year-old Jordan Banks, who returns in this hilarious and heartfelt companion to New Kid (rev. 1/19), the Coretta Scott King and Newbery Award–winning graphic novel. Jordan is now a year older, and a tiny bit more secure in his second year at Riverdale Academy Day (RAD) School. He still has the familiar comfort of loving parents (whose preference is for Jordan to spend his upcoming high school career at RAD rather than transfer to an art school, as he desires); and pals Liam and Drew (when the two are not embroiled in their own tensions over social class). Jordan and his friends navigate microaggressions, well-meaning but sometimes inept teachers, colorism, absentee caregivers, and other complex issues. Along the way, the trio demonstrates vulnerability, ranges of emotions, and willingness to always crack a joke — after all, they are teenage boys. Jordan’s friend Drew’s coming-of-age as a Black boy in a predominantly white environment is very thoughtfully explored, particularly the tension of navigating how to be an academic achiever in a context that is reluctant to acknowledge him as such. In one especially telling moment during a school visit by Black and Latinx students from underfunded “sister school” Cardi De Academy that goes terribly wrong, Drew is asked if “they let you be smart here? Or do they try to melt your wings?” Craft adeptly balances poignant questions like these with laugh-out-loud moments in the lively illustrations, making Class Act a substantial snapshot of the interior life of boys, especially Black boys who are too often not afforded such attention, love, and care.

From the November/December 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Kim Parker

Dr. Kim Parker is Director of the Crimson Summer Academy at Harvard University, and co-chair of the Books for Black Children and Youth initiative of the Boston Network for Black Student Achievement. She served on the 2019 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards committee.

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