Class Act
by Craft, Jerry; Craft, Jerry (ILT)

Eighth grader Drew Ellis recognizes that he isn't afforded the same opportunities, no matter how hard he works, that his privileged classmates at the Riverdale Academy Day School take for granted, and to make matters worse, Drew begins to feel as if his good friend Liam might be one of those privileged kids and is finding it hard not to withdraw, even as their mutual friend Jordan tries to keep their group of friends together.

*Starred Review* This follow-up to the accessible and profoundly necessary New Kid (it didn't win the Newbery Medal and a Coretta Scott King Book Award for nothing), puts the focus on Drew, Jordan's friend and fellow Black student at their upper-crust, mostly white private school in New York. The two are now in their second year, and the racial issues are still complicated, but Class Act also widens its examination of difference. Physically, the slow-to-develop Jordan experiences classmates growing taller, starting to smell different, and forming new relationships with the other genders. Economically, children from a struggling school visit the expansive private campus and are astonished and disturbed, and the boys' visit to wealthy Liam's mansion and apparently carefree life triggers hard realizations. Drew, darker-skinned than Jordan, faces a different set of expectations and assumptions from white classmates and faculty, as well as the resentment of lifelong friends in his neighborhood. It's a tribute to Craft's skill and his deep humanity that both Drew and Liam, who face very different struggles, use those struggles to widen and deepen their respective perspectives. Never relying on platitudes, Craft makes the story honest and believable and presents it as a powerful, if difficult to achieve, real-world possibility. The miracle, once again, is that he not only captures anguish but also finds hilarity, aided considerably by his affable art, filled with visual puns and asides. Another work of resounding understanding and empathy.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Fresh off his 2020 Newbery win, Craft is one of the hottest names in children's comics, and this follow-up to the sensational New Kid is going to be even hotter. Stock up. Grades 4-7. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Jordan Banks has returned to the elite Riverdale Academy Day School for eighth grade, and although he still doesn't smell like an eighth grade boy—much to his dismay—his growth spurt comes in other forms. Unlike New Kid (2019), this sequel offers the perspectives of not just Jordan, but also his best friend, Drew, and his wealthy White friend, Liam. As Jordan navigates what may be his last year at RAD before transferring to art school, he frequently compares his experiences with Drew's: Both boys are Black, but Drew is taller, more athletic, and has darker skin. Drew also has a new flattop that attracts unwanted touching from non-Black kids. This story focuses on how differently RAD students and teachers treat light-skinned Jordan and dark-skinned Drew and also how middle-class Jordan, working-class Drew, and rich Liam negotiate a friendship of mutual respect and care. RAD administrators and teachers have also realized that they need to work on diversity, equity, and inclusion, but their leadership choice for this initiative results in more microaggressions for the students of color. Jordan's cartoon "intermissions," black-and-white pencil sketches, capture his imaginative wit while conveying perceptive observations about race and class that ring true. Each chapter's title page textually and illustratively echoes popular graphic works for young readers such as Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid. A well-Crafted, visually rich, truth-telling tale for our troubled times that affirms the eternal importance of friends. (author's note) (Graphic fiction. 9-14) Copyright Kirkus 2020 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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