In March 2020, my goal was to read every Newbery Winner since I was born (1995) which provided a month-long binge of good kidlit! I decided to work backwards simply since I had a copy of the 2020 winner and didn’t want to be that person who kept the hold too long. Hence, I began with New Kid by Jerry Craft, the first graphic novel to win the Newbery. It was a big deal for me (as a recent convert/devotee of graphic novels) but also to everyone because graphic novels are SO POPULAR amongst kids now, and it’s so uplifting to see them get the recognition they deserve.
New Kid tells the story of, you guessed it, a new kid–Jordan, as he adapts to seventh grade at a new, uppity private school that isn’t that diverse. He’s definitely not the only kid of color though—and his interactions with and observations of their experiences color his experience as much as what he goes through on his own. Jordan is biracial–asian and black as far as I can tell–and he often faces a lot of assumptions at his new school from teachers and students alike.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s well-drawn, it’s engaging, and it’s got some real humor. At one point, one of the black kids is given a book by a probably well-meaning but absolutely dumb individual about a black boy growing up without a father in poverty, and the kid hands the book back and says “No, I can’t relate, my father is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company” and I laughed out loud. I liked seeing how Jordan made friends, how he interacted with them, and I loved seeing him grow into his own person as he navigated this new school.
I can definitely see why this won the Newbery, though is it gauche to say Guts was robbed? Oops.