April 30th, 2019 by Karen
When I was in 4th grade, my family spent a few months in Los Angeles, almost 400 miles away from our home in San Francisco. Here’s what was great about that: We lived much closer to Disneyland! Here’s what wasn’t great: I had to attend a new school and make new friends.
If you’ve ever been the new kid, you know how hard it can be. Everyone already knows each other, they already know the teachers, and they know all the behind-the-scenes info that keeps you from looking like a fool as you navigate campus.
But being the new kid is even harder for Jordan in the graphic novel New Kid by Jerry Craft. That’s because he’s one of the few students of color at the fancy Riverdale Academy Day School.
Jordan is an aspiring cartoonist, so he wants to attend art school. But his parents insist on sending him to Riverdale Academy because of its focus on academics. So every day he leaves behind his family and old friends in Washington Heights and travels up to Riverdale, where he has to deal with kids who are mostly oblivious to their privilege — or worse, make racist remarks to Jordan and some of his classmates who also aren’t white or who are on financial aid. Even some of the teachers show obvious bias in their behavior towards Jordan. Then there are the teachers who mean well, but still treat Jordan differently as they try to show they’re not biased.
But it’s not all bad. Jordan makes friends, practices drawing, and gets more comfortable at Riverdale Academy. Still, as Jordan moves between his two worlds, there are plenty of challenges for him to deal with and a lot for him to figure out — not just about school, but also about himself.
I’d recommend this book to literally everyone. Okay, maybe not to little kids who can’t read yet. But everyone else should check out New Kid. Students, adults, everyone. For some readers, it will reflect their reality — capturing their feelings in both a touching and funny way. (Prime example: Jordan’s comics about dealing with his classmates and teachers offer social commentary in a package that’s sharp and hilarious.) For other readers, New Kid may be a window into a life that’s very different from their own — and yet, I bet they’ll still identify with Jordan and hopefully gain some empathy for his experience.
But don’t take my word for it — check out the recommendation below from Jeff Kinney, the author of Diary of a Wimpy Kid:
The above image also gives you a taste of the artwork in the book. For more of a preview, here are a couple spreads from the publisher’s website:
Have you ever been the new kid? Leave a comment with your story! (Just be sure not to mention names, like the name of your school!)
The first week of college, Karen’s parents sent her a birthday cake. Karen took it room to room, offering slices to her classmates. Pro tip: sharing baked goods = an excellent way to make new friends!