20 Oct / Class Act by Jerry Craft [in Shelf Awareness]
Welcome back to a new year at Riverdale Academy Day (RAD) School in Jerry Craft’s entertaining follow-up to his 2020 Newbery Medal-winning debut, New Kid. Wannabe artist Jordan reunites with his closest friends: Liam, who arrives from his family’s Riverdale mansion via chauffeur, and Drew, who commutes from a Co-Op City apartment where he lives with his grandmother. Craft’s focus here is Drew: within moments of arrival, he’s accosted by Andy with combative unwanted greetings and by Ashley, who shows her overbearing devotion with home-baked goods.
Although Jordan and Drew are both Black, Drew’s darker skin especially stands out in the mostly white RAD community, which subjects him to continued microagressions and myopic racism from both students and administrators. Away from RAD, the trio’s sleepover at Liam’s mansion almost sunders their friendship as Drew grows increasingly uncomfortable with Liam’s wealthy privilege. All three will learn valuable lessons about the danger of assumptions and the power of allyship as eighth grade continues. As in New Kid, young Jordan’s black-and-white sketchbook comics insightfully capture the progress.
Just as his characters deal with their RAD new world bolstered by supportive friendships, Craft, too, deftly affirms the authors who have enabled and enhanced his sophomore title. His clever chapter title spreads are visual homages (with permission) to notable creators: He opens, for example, with “Sketch Diary of a Shrimpy Kid.” By book’s end, his acknowledgements feature a memorable roster of #OwnVoices (Reynolds, Woodson, Thomas) who have inspired him. By maintaining a convincing blend of challenges and triumphs for his own diverse cast, Craft’s perceptive Class Act skillfully provides resourceful instruction on encouraging deeper understanding.
Discover: Jordan, Liam, and Drew start another year together at elite Riverdale Academy Day to learn lasting lessons in eschewing assumptions and achieving better understanding.
Readers: Middle Grade