Being the new kid is rough. In New Kid by Jerry Craft, the graphic novel shows the life of 7th grader Jordan Banks being introduced to a whole different world. Jordan’s a talented cartoonist and wants to go to art school to continue his passion. His parents have other plans for him, and he is sent to an expensive prep school called Riverdale Academy. The school has an amazing, beautiful campus, but Jordan is just one of the few students of color at the school.
He’s different. Not only is he the new kid and a student of color among a mostly white school, he’s also a scholarship kid. He has to figure out how to fit in to his new school while also dealing with student bullies and microaggressions from teachers and students. Jordan learns a lot of life lessons in this book, and clearly shows the everyday struggles of middle school.
I seriously devoured this book, and I expect many students will understand the message shared through New Kid. I think the microaggressions felt by Jordan will hit home for a lot of students. I can see amazing conversations coming from this book in classrooms and book clubs across the country. I also think it’s a book that teachers should read. While we educators like to point out other sources of problems in the lives of our students, sometimes educators can exacerbate the issues that students are facing.
Everyone feels different, but through acceptance and friendship, children can make a difference in each other’s life. In the novel, rich kids, scholarship kids, and bullies all feel different and out of place. Jerry Craft demonstrates that one welcoming gesture from someone else can be a life changing moment for someone who has been consistently left out. It’s a message more students need to hear.
And while this book touches on some important topics, it’s also funny, heartwarming, and most importantly, it’s a relatable story that students will understand. This is a great addition to growing area of coming of age graphic novels.