New Kid (New Kid #1) by Jerry Craft

Some of my favorite books of all time happen to be Newbery Medal winners or Newbery Honor books. Bridge to Terabithia (Amazon) (AbeBooks), Tuck Everlasting (Amazon) (AbeBooks), several of the Little House on the Prairie volumes made the list, as well as Miracles on Maple Hill (Amazon) (AbeBooks), Jacob Have I Loved (Amazon) (AbeBooks) and more. One year I decided to read as many Newbery winner and honor books. I read or re-read more than 120 titles that year. I enjoyed most of them. New Kid (Amazon) (AbeBooks) is the 2020 Newbery Medal winner.

I find it is usually hit or miss with Newbery selections. Sometimes the books are really good reading if you are an adult, but would not attract the average child. The voters, a group of librarians, like books that cover intense issues, it seems, and this book fits the bill.

From the publisher: “Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.

As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?”

New Kid (Amazon) (AbeBooks) is a story that needs to be told. Too often elite or private schools lack diversity. In my community, so many people do school choice to a neighboring community’s public high school that gets high grades from the Department of Instruction, but the makeup of the student population is 85% white. I would never send my kids to a school that does not represent the community. It is true that our two youngest daughters attend a small, private Catholic K-8 school of about 100 students, but even with that small number, it’s diverse. There are African American, Native American, Indian and Asian American students there.

This graphic novel is appealing because of the format, and it tackles modern-day problems in a very real way. Sometimes the subject matter seems like it would go over the heads of an 8-year old, which is the lower age of who this is geared to. The story is very good. However, one of the conundrums is that some of the problems of the protagonist are implied, so not all kids will get it.

A very good effort was made to tackle the issues of poverty, racism, self expression, alienation, bullying, and more, but I think that because it tackles so many issues (which I realize are often inter-related, but not to a kid) is why this book falls short of great for me. 

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