Jordan Banks is a seventh grader starting at a new school. Not just any school though: Riverdale Academy Day School. It’s a prestigious school where a lot of kids from rich families go. Jordan got in on scholarship for his excellent grades, but he’d have much rather gone to art school instead. He loves to draw little comics about his daily life and observations, and has dreams of doing it for a living. Now, we all know middle school is hard. But it’s even harder being the new kid, and one of the only kids of color, in the whole school. Jordan finds himself struggling to make friends and fit in, and finds solace in his drawings. How do you make a place for yourself when not everyone is willing to let you have the space?
Though this is a middle-grade graphic novel, I enjoyed it and learned a few things from it to boot. Jordan is an African American kid, and author Jerry Craft cleverly documents not only the good, but the bad parts, of Jordan’s experience at a prestigious, mostly white school. Microaggressions such as being called the wrong name and assuming he plays basketball are documented in Jordan’s comics and conversations between characters. Some are explicitly mentioned, and some are more subtle. It made me recall how my schoolmates of color were treated while I was growing up. I grew uncomfortable, but that’s okay. I am glad I can now recognize these microaggressions as an adult if I myself and or others perform them, and take appropriate action to stop them.
The art and layout of this one are straightforward. There are chapters, like a print book, so there is always a good stopping point for younger readers. My favorite part was Jordan’s comics. Two-page spreads are dedicated to his work, at least one per chapter. They are done in pencil, complete with sketch and eraser lines, so you feel like you’re actually looking inside his sketchbook. They’re also often very funny!
Kids (and adults) of any race can learn from this graphic novel. It would be wonderful for kids and parents to read together and discuss Jordan, his feelings, and his experiences. I do hope we see more of Jordan and his observant and witty comics in the future – and if I want more, so too will the target audience ;D
Craft, Jerry. New Kid. 2019.