New Kid, by Jerry Craft
Speed Interview with Author-Illustrator Jerry Craft
The Children’s Book Review: Which five words best describe New Kid?
Jerry Craft: Funny, Thought-Provoking, Conversation-Starter, Honest, Comforting
(I know technically that’s seven words, but I’m hoping the judges will rule in my favor.)
Can you share a highlight from the book? Or maybe your thoughts on, or an excerpt of, your favorite sentence, paragraph, or page?
One of my favorite scenes from New Kid is when Jordan Banks is waiting for his Dad (who is running late) to pick him up (pages 180-187). Then, to make matters worse, it begins to rain. But just when Jordan thinks that it can’t get any worse . . . BAM! Here comes Alexandra, the kid who everyone thinks is probably the weirdest kid in the whole grade. And she sits down next to him. The only good thing is that she offers to share her umbrella.
I like this scene because I “Crafted it” (pun intended) to take my readers through a whole range of emotions. First, it’s the awkwardness of having to talk to someone who you really don’t want to talk to. Then there’s the slow realization that maybe it’s not as bad as you thought. And finally, there’s the comfort that happens when you open your mind, and your heart, to see who that person really is! And that many of your preconceived notions couldn’t be further from the truth. I think that’s an important lesson for both kids, and adults, to learn. Plus I put in one silly panel to get my readers to laugh and relax.
If you had to take a vacation with one of the characters from New Kid, who would it be? Why?
Well, it wouldn’t be Andy, that’s for sure. I think I’d jump out the plane before reaching our destination.
Jordan would be cool, because we’d spend the day drawing. Liam would also be a good choice. But I think I’d pick Drew because he’s always aware of his surroundings, and is very protective of his friends. So he’d allow me to let my guard down long enough to enjoy the vacation.
What has been the best reaction from a reader, so far?
I have had such AMAZING reactions that it’s difficult to choose. I’ve already gotten emails from moms whose kids have told them, “I am Jordan Banks,” which continues to give me goosebumps. Every day since the book launched on February 5 has been like Christmas morning to me. I open up my email and never know what is waiting for me, but it’s already been a magnificent journey.
I’ve received emails from kids saying how much they love the book. And from parents who are stunned that their supposedly “reluctant readers” read the book three times in ONE DAY!
And I’ve seen fan drawings of the characters all over social media.
BUT, if I had to choose ONE, it was this message that I got from a mom: “My son was at your event today. He has autism and usually has difficulty with crowds. His teacher told me he was so excited to meet you and was able to ask you a few questions! Thank you for doing something as small as answering a question, it meant a great deal to my son! Thank you!”
And what made it even more special was that she sent me a photo of her son holding the book.
What’s on your nightstand? Any books?
I just picked up a copy of Betty Before X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Renée Watson. Renée is one of my favorite authors. And I always keep a copy of Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library, which is illustrated by Eric Velasquez, my friend and a fantastic illustrator.
For your writing energy: sugar or salt, tea or coffee?
Neither and neither. I keep almonds and dates on my desk. And I usually have water or a container of whatever I’ve juiced that morning.
Creative tools: computer, pen and paper, or all of the above?
I did New Kid exclusively in Photoshop.
Can you tell us one more thing we may not know about New Kid, your writing style, or yourself?
The house where Jordan Banks lives is actually the house that I grew up in. I also used a lot of my childhood friends’ names throughout the book, as well as named Jordan’s old school after my editor, St. Harwell’s. My agent’s and lots of former classmates’ names are in there as well. So I guess I’ll be able to see who actually reads the book.
Written and Illustrated by Jerry Craft
Publisher’s Synopsis: Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Gene Luen Yang, New Kid is a timely, honest graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real, from award-winning author-illustrator Jerry Craft.
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?
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | February 5, 2019 | ISBN-13: 978-0062691200
About the Author
Jerry Craft is an author and illustrator who has worked on numerous picture books, graphic novels, and middle grade novels, including The Zero Degree Zombie Zone by Patrik Henry Bass. Jerry is the creator of Mama’s Boyz, an award-winning syndicated comic strip. He has won five African American Literary Awards, and he is a cofounder of the Schomburg Center’s Annual Black Comic Book Festival. He received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts and now lives in Connecticut. Visit him online at www.jerrycraft.net.
This speed interview with Jerry Craft, author-illustrator of New Kid, was conducted by Bianca Schulze. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Diversity, Friendship, Graphic Novel, Jerry Craft, Middle School, and New Kid At School.
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