A follow-up to “New Kid”, the graphic novel “Class Act” by Jerry Craft is pretty much as entertaining and colourful.
The book follows the stories of a bunch of kids who are starting a new year at school, and each of them has their own fears, some serious, some funny. Like one of the characters Jordan is worried that he isn’t smelly & sweaty like the other guys in school after a game. “When do I get my big-boy stink” he asks his father, all upset.
Craft hilariously captures the anxieties of being in a competitive school. And his drawing style is fun. Just like “New Kids”, the dominant theme in “Class Act” is how kids of color feel like outsiders in a posh school dominated by white students.
Since it’s contemporary fiction, the story unfolds at a time when “Black Lives Matter” was gathering a lot of steam. So, we see how the school administration tries hard to work towards “diversity” and making students from different ethnic backgrounds feel comfortable. A lot of the measures only make some of the characters feel more out of place.
I loved how Craft humorously makes one of the meaner kids called Andy experience what it feels like to be an outsider, by subjecting the character to a practical joke. Andy comes as Hulk for Halloween, but realises his brother painted him with a green color that doesn’t come off in one wash. So he ends up going to school looking all green for almost 5 days and is made the butt of endless jokes. Even the teachers can’t help but laugh a little. When he talks of how it was hard being “green” for a few days, a classmate points out how them being of a different colour is permanent, and not temporary like his experience. This really hits home for Andy.
For young readers, “Class Act” serves as a clever and fun tale about racial and economic disparities, without getting too preachy. Graphic Novel enthusiasts will love how each chapter name puns with popular books of the genre & the art resembles their cover page.
It’s a 4/5 from me.