"Class Act" by Jerry Craft is the graphic novel sequel to “New Kid”. In this graphic novel, Drew is the main character, rather than Jordan. However, we still get to see a lot of Jordan.
“Class Act” deals with the disparities that can exist between different races and cultures, and whether these disparities are worthy of ending friendships. Drew spends most of the graphic novel grappling with his various friendships, and how to be himself in a world that has everyone labelled a certain way. While Drew is dealing with racial and cultural disparity, Jordan is dealing with puberty and issues of self-identity. He’s wondering when he will grow taller and start having to use deodorant, and whether his artistic skills are viewed as immature by those around him. Craft does such a great job of taking modern, relevant issues and making them relatable to his readers.
Not only is Craft able to tell great stories, he also has the amazing talent of illustrating fantastic comics! I love all of Craft’s art, but I especially love how he can embed so much detail and figurative language within such small illustrations.
Recommended Age Group?
The publisher’s recommended age group is 8-12. I would push that age group up – 10-13 (grades 5-8). Considering that the main characters are in grade 8, most of the themes are relevant to that age group.
While Craft’s “New Kid” focuses on racial and cultural stereotypes, “Class Act” focuses more on the disparities between races and cultures. Racial and cultural stereotypes are still addressed, but in this graphic novel Craft moves from collective issues to individual issues. One of the themes that will be most relevant to its young readers is the theme of being yourself, and how daunting that idea can be in our world today. Craft also addresses the theme of infatuation. Your students will have no problem making text-to-self connections among the many themes and questions that this graphic novel poses.
Craft also adds pop-culture into his graphic novels, and while this can be super fun, there may be students who don’t understand certain pop-culture references.
This book is classroom approved and best suited for grades 5-8. Keep in mind that some of the themes are geared more towards the higher grades (7 & 8), and your younger students may not understand or be ready to tackle these themes.
All in all, I love that Craft is able to take relevant issues, arrange them into comics, and tell interesting stories all at the same time. Craft’s graphic novels are sure to get your students thinking and expressing their ideas and opinions, which is always a win-win. But also, they’ll just love the fact that they get to read a graphic novel!