While I am not an avid graphic novel reader, I am so happy that my first venture into this wonderful genre included “New Kid” by Jerry Craft. First of all, Craft’s graphic novel is the winner of two prestigious awards: Coretta Scott King Award and the John Newberry Medal. Need I say more? Second of all, the illustrations could not be any more perfect! Craft, also the illustrator, is able to draw the most fitting and adorable facial expressions for his memorable characters.
“New Kid” is a fictional story about a 12-year-old boy who’s been enrolled in a preppy new school on the other side of town. What doesn’t help this scary fact is that Jordan Banks, the main character, is black and comes from a middle-income home, while the majority of students at his new school are white and wealthy. Jordan has to learn how to deal with stereotypes and prejudices while also learning where he best fits in.
Craft does an excellent job of addressing common stereotypes while also keeping the characters funny and relatable. This graphic novel was an enjoyable read and I now have a newfound love for this story-telling genre.
Recommended Age Group?
While some purchasing sites will say “Appropriate for All Ages”, I do not think that is true for this particular graphic novel. Due to the themes and heavy focus on stereotypical thinking and behaviour, I would recommend ages 9 and up, which is very close to the publisher’s recommendation (8-12). However, 8-year-olds may not glean the most important themes from this novel. There is so much truth embedded in the pages of “New Kid”, and a student needs to first be able to understand the concept of a stereotype before being able to learn from this wonderful graphic novel.
Beyond the largest theme of stereotypes and prejudices among various cultures and ethnicities, this book is chock-full of great themes. The main character has to learn how to make all new friends at a brand-new school. He needs to learn how to play a sport, be a team player, and handle conflict. He also learns about inequity and how to incorporate great advice into his life. There are so many great themes in this book; it’s hard to list them all! It would be my wish that all students who read this graphic novel would be able to close the cover with a set of new eyes for the world around them.
This book is classroom approved. My only hesitation is that grade two might be too young. There is one particular scene in which two characters talk about how their school years are going. Jordan’s friend, who attends the school that Jordan could have ended up at, mentions a boy who brought a gun to school for protection. It’s a quick scene, but nonetheless, it cannot be grazed over. This scene needs to be talked about so that students can better understand some of the struggles that many kids face in schools all over the world.
If you choose this as a class read aloud, slow down and take the time to really pour into it. Your students are going to walk away with a whole new realm of knowledge, and hopefully a new understanding of stereotypical thinking.
As a little bonus, the publisher of HarperCollins has a free Teaching and Reading Guide for this graphic novel. There’s also a video of the author and an audio sample.
If you’re looking for something more comprehensive…