Jordan Banks is a 12 year old African American boy who loves to draw. He lives with his parents in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City and dreams of attending art school. He keeps a scrapbook of all of his comics and drawings, and feels right at home where he lives. When his parents approach him about going to Riverdale Academy Day School, an affluent school uptown, Jordan is hesitant. What if there is no one like him there? What if he doesn’t fit in?
As a new kid, Jordan is paired with Liam, a fellow student who shows him the ropes. Liam is white, rich, and has a driver who often brings him to school. On the first day, Liam and his father pick Jordan up at his home; it is clear that Jordan is uncomfortable with these two different worlds colliding. His first day doesn’t go so well; Jordan gets lost and deals with being called the wrong name, the shame of being on financial aid, and feeling alone. One boy in particular, Andy, is ignorant and rude, and his racist comments are hard to ignore. However, Jordan realizes that Liam is a good guy, and he is happy that they met.
Over time, Jordan learns to not only navigate his new school, but also how to transform himself on his way to school. On the bus, he starts off as Jordan from Washington Heights, and by the time he reaches school, he is Jordan of Riverdale Academy. However, Jordan begins to feel more comfortable when he finally meets one of the other African American boys in his grade, Drew. The two boys find comfort in knowing they have so much in common and become instant friends. Over time, Jordan, Drew, and Liam all begin to hang out together, something that Jordan hadn’t even considered happening until his father suggested it. Jordan continues to make more friends, stand up for himself, and become more at ease in his new school. At the same time, Jordan still hangs out with his buddies in the neighborhood, who playfully nickname him “Private School” when he corrects their grammar.
Winner of both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King award, New Kid is one of a kind. The graphic novel reflects the modern day African American experience in a humorous yet serious way, with exceptional artwork that is entertaining and eye catching. This book is an excellent addition to any upper elementary and early middle school classroom. It will hold students’ interest, spark interesting discussions, and engage even the most reluctant readers.