In October 2021, a local petition to ban books by Newbery Medal-winning author Jerry Craft resulted in the postponement of his appearance in front of a Texas school district. Dissenters claim the book teaches critical race theory and therefore should not be taught in schools. The following is Craft’s response to the petition.
A note from Jerry Craft, author of New Kid and Class Act
Many aspects of my life have changed drastically since my book New Kid became the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal. But through it all, what has not changed are my goals for my books: helping kids become the kind of readers that I never was; letting kids see themselves on my pages; and showing kids of color as just regular kids.
As an African American boy who grew up in Washington Heights in New York City, I almost never saw kids like me in any of the books assigned to me in school. Books aimed at kids like me seemed to deal only with history or misery. That’s why it has always been important to me to show kids of color as just regular kids, and to create iconic African American characters like Jordan Banks from New Kid. I hope that readers of all ages will see the kindness and understanding that my characters exhibit and emulate those feelings in their day-to-day lives.
When I first set out to write and illustrate New Kid, I knew there would be giant hurdles to overcome. But I was confident that I was the right person to create this book, for the simple reason that I had experienced many of the same things my protagonist Jordan Banks had. I wanted to illustrate the things that kids like me had to face on a daily basis–like teachers confusing you with another kid of color, or classmates being afraid to come to your house because they assume you live in a bad neighborhood. These things are a lot for a kid to deal with. Oh, and you still have to get good grades! To counteract these stressful moments, I added elements such as strong values, loving families, very supportive friends, and plenty of humor.
I would like to offer a special thank you to the many teachers, librarians, students, and parents who love and champion my books. You have changed my life, in the same way that I hope to have changed yours. And to my readers and fans around the world who tell me how much they relate to my characters, I can’t put into words how much your support means to me.
Jerry Craft is a #1 New York Times bestselling author-illustrator who has worked on numerous picture books, graphic novels, and middle grade novels, including the Newbery Medal-winning graphic novel New Kid and its companion, Class Act. New Kid is also the winner of the Coretta Scott King Author Award and the Kirkus Prize. Jerry is the creator of Mama’s Boyz, an award-winning syndicated comic strip. He has won five African American Literary Awards and 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.