76 pages 2 hours read

Jerry Craft

New Kid

Fiction | Graphic Novel/Book | Middle Grade | Published in 2019

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Summary and Study Guide


New Kid by Jerry Craft is a 2019 graphic novel and winner of the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award. Jim Callahan is responsible for the coloring. Craft is the creator of the 1990 comic strip Mama’s Boyz and Class Act, the 2020 companion story to this book. New Day focuses on an artistic middle school student who makes friends and builds confidence in himself as he navigates race and class issues at a prestigious private school.

Plot Summary

Jordan Banks is a middle school student who loves drawing cartoons about his experiences. But he feels he has no control over his life as his parents send him to the prestigious Riverdale Academy Day School (RAD). Its sprawling campus and affluent student body are a world apart from his Washington Heights neighborhood in New York City. The campus impresses him, but he gets lost easily and must deal with a bully, Andy, who mocks his height and makes stereotypical comments about race. Jordan’s father, Chuck, sympathizes with his desire to go to art school and his position as a Black student in a majority white school, while his mother, Ellice, insists he must learn what’s necessary to succeed in a career.

As the year progresses, Jordan takes classes, plays sports, and draws sketches. However, he changes his appearance and habits on his bus ride to school depending on the neighborhood, always wears a hooded jacket, and he deals with passive forms of racism, such as having people call him by the names of other Black students or look at him when topics like slavery and financial aid come up. In Washington Heights, he faces the opposite problem as his education pushes him away from his old friends.

Jordan becomes friends with Liam, his guide to the school. Liam comes from a wealthy family, but he would rather play video games with ordinary people like Jordan and criticizes his absent father. Jordan also meets Drew, who also comes from a disadvantaged background. Even though Drew is a smart student and good athlete, he acts out in retaliation to Andy’s bullying and the persecution of their homeroom teacher, Ms. Rawle. Jordan is reluctant to introduce his two vastly different friends to each other but eventually brings them together with his grandfather’s encouragement.

Over the winter, Drew nearly confronts Andy after receiving stereotypical gifts from a Secret Santa, only to learn that they are from Ashley, a gossip who has a crush on him. As Ashley’s Secret Santa, Jordan must explain to her what a sweet potato pie is. He also talks with Alexandra, a girl who uses a hand puppet and hyperactive persona to distract from a burn scar she received after saving her brother from a pot of boiling water. His neighborhood friend, Kirk, helps Jordan reconnect with the other kids in Washington Heights.

Andy becomes more abusive after RAD expels Collin, his friend on financial aid, for going on a Hawaii vacation with him. When Drew confronts Andy in the cafeteria, Andy pushes him. Drew pushes back, causing Andy to slip and crash into a table. When Andy and Ms. Rawle try to pin the blame on Drew, Jordan summons the courage to tell the truth about the fight. This wins the support of students and faculty alike, saving Drew from suspension.

Ms. Rawle discovers Jordan’s misplaced sketchbook and reads through it. She calls Jordan an angry person who should be happy to attend RAD, but Jordan refutes the claim—he is only expressing his opinion through his sketches. He also points out how Ms. Rawle would never teach in his neighborhood if she had the choice. Afterward, Jordan paints an abstract work with the encouragement of Ms. Slate, a high-concept art teacher who he initially dismisses, and she uses it as the school’s yearbook cover.

At the end of the novel, Jordan helps Alexandra overcome her insecurities by sharing the story of her scar with Ashley, who tells it to everyone else. Once the students see that Alexandra’s scar isn’t as bad as she thought, she is able to feel more confident and gives one of her hand puppets to Jordan. On the last day of school, Jordan arrives without his jacket on for the first time. He even signs Andy’s yearbook after everyone else refuses to, and his parents remark that he is more confident than before—a “New Kid” (245).