A letter from Jerry Craft, author of New Kid

By Jerry Craft

Dear Book Lover,

I can honestly say that I have wanted to be an artist ever since I was old enough to hold a crayon and not stick it up my nose. Even though I probably sometimes did both. My dream was to be the next great artist for Spider-Man. My parents, on the other hand, were only familiar with the term “starving artist.” So I didn’t get to go to my dream art high school. As a result, since they didn’t want their poor artist son living in their basement forever, they sent me to a fancy private school in fancy Riverdale, NY. You know, the place where Archie and Jughead go to get malteds. (I STILL don’t know what a malted is.)

Although I loved to draw, I never dreamed that I would be an author because I didn’t really like to read. I went from reading Dr. Seuss, to skimming through Marvel Comics to get to the fight scenes. Maybe it was because I never saw any protagonists who looked like me, who weren’t sidekicks, stereotypes, or just plain miserable. And I wasn’t even looking for characters who were specifically African American boys with light skin, wavy hair, and too small for their age. I just wanted to see happy African-American kids, period! Anyway, it really wasn’t until high school that I found a book that actually captured my interest. It was “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens. And it was, like, 500 pages long! Something I NEVER thought I could read. But not only did I finish it, I actually enjoyed it! I was shocked!

Fast forward to me being a father who was now looking for happy books with kids who looked like my two sons. It was much easier when they were little. But, the older they got, the more scarce those fun stories became. There are LOTS of books about historical figures. Lots of sad stories. Lots of stories about struggle. Or gangs. Still not many stories about kids just being kids. Where was my sons’ Wimpy Kid? Or Percy Jackson? Where was their book that they can’t wait to share with their friends, no matter who they are, because they have a story that means as much to them as Smile, or Amulet? Where are the books that show other kids, that there are kids like my sons who like ice cream and pizza and tickle fights, and have both a mom AND a dad? (Insert sound of crickets.)

After 6,752 rejection letters from every publisher in the galaxy, I started publishing my own books. Then one day, out of the blue, I got asked to illustrate The Zero Degree Zombie Zone for Scholastic. Were publishers really starting to embrace the books that I had been forced to self-publish for more than 20 years? I needed to find out. Fast forward again to me having an agent, and that agent telling me that the wonderful folks at HarperCollins LOVED reading my story about an African-American boy who wants to be an artist, but his parents make him go to a fancy private school in Riverdale where he is now one of the few kids of color. (Wonder where I got THAT idea from?) But it was not only my life, I was now also inspired by my sons who ended up having their own school experiences.

So there you have it! I hope you enjoy New Kid. Whether you read it for the laughs, the warm fuzzies, or the teachable moments, just know that each copy you put in a kid’s hands will help me move one step closer to my ultimate goal: Finally moving out of my parents’ basement.


Jerry Craft

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.


“Possibly one of the most important graphic novels of the year.”Booklist (starred review)

“An engrossing, humorous, and vitally important graphic novel that should be required reading in every middle school in America.”Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“This is more than a story about being the new kid—it’s a complex examination of the micro- and macroaggressions that Jordan endures from classmates and teachers. Highly recommended for all middle grade shelves.”—School Library Journal (starred review)

“This engaging story offers and authentic secondary cast and captures the high jinks of middle schoolers and the tensions that come with being a person of color in a traditionally white space.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)