Transcript: Children Chatting with Jerry Craft

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a certified or verbatim transcript, but rather represents only the context of the class or meeting, subject to the inherent limitations of real-time captioning. The primary focus of real-time captioning is general communication access and as such this document is not suitable, acceptable, nor is it intended for use in any type of legal proceeding.Transcript by

Children Chatting Podcast: Discussion between Jerry Craft and the Children Chatting Kids

LAUREN: Hello everyone. You are listening to a very special episode of Children Chatting with Authors Podcast. Today, we are going to be joined by Jerry Craft. The 2020 Coretta Scott King Book Awards author winner, and author of the 2020 Newbery winning book, New Kid.

DANIELLA: Hi, my name's Daniella. My question for Jerry is, why did you become an author/illustrator? From what age did you know that this was the career you wanted?

JERRY CRAFT: I have to say, I have never remembered a time in my life when I did not like to draw. From the time I was very little, I always had a pencil or crayons or pen in my hand.

JERRY CRAFT: It was interesting. I never really thought I would be an author because I wasn't really a reader. I read Marvel comics, and that was about it. I never really had books that I bonded with. I didn't have a librarian who would tell me about the new Dog Man, or the new Harry Potter, or the new Percy Jackson. So, I had just these big gaps.

JERRY CRAFT: Eventually, I started writing my own comics because, I guess, I wanted to see characters who looked like me. Then slowly but surely, I realized that in order to draw these stories, I had to write them myself. That was what started it, it was comic books, and then as I got a little older, my own comic strips.

NICHOLAS: Hi. My name is Nicholas and my question is, where did you get the idea for New Kid?

JERRY CRAFT: New Kid is basically a combination of my life, as well as, the lives of my two sons.

JERRY CRAFT: Part of it is me, growing up in Washington Heights. Being one of the youngest and smallest kids in my class. Having to go every day. Wanting to be an artist, and my parents did not wanting me to be an artist. Then having them send me to a school in Riverdale called Fieldston, which was very much like Riverdale Academy Day School.

JERRY CRAFT: The part that I took from watching my sons, was a lot of the dress code, the pinks, and the salmons, and calling some of the kids of color by the wrong names, their teachers of color. I would say it was probably about 75% me and 25% them, or something like that. Maybe 60/40. Yeah. Let's say that.

ISAAC: My name is Isaac. I was going to ask, are you going to make another book about Jordan?

JERRY CRAFT: Actually, I am drawing as we speak. I am working on the companion book, which is called Class Act. I am doing my best to finish it in the next two weeks. If I can get that done, then Class Act will be out on... this October, I believe, October 10th.

JERRY CRAFT: You can actually already go on different websites and pre-order it, which is really exciting. It will have Drew on the cover, but it will still be Drew, and Liam, and all the people that you do like. I'm very excited. I am very happy with how it's turning out. I just have to put the finishing touches on it.

ISAAC: Okay.

EVA: Hi, my name is Eva. My question is, why for the chapter titles, did you base them off different movies and books?

JERRY CRAFT: For the chapter headings, one of the things that I wanted to do was I wanted to [inaudible 00:04:16] other pop culture stuff because I wanted to show that it was up to date. It's a current story. I also put some in for adults to like, because I don't think that kids will get all of them. But, I put a lot of those in, for teachers and librarians, because I know when my sons were younger, and I would take them to see animated movies, I always loved the movies that were like Shrek, because I think I would laugh as much as they did. Maybe at different parts, but I really enjoyed them.

JERRY CRAFT: I wanted to do a book that a kid could read, but then also their teacher or their mom or their dad, or their older brother could also read, and then they could talk about it together, so that it would be a book for all ages. Judging by the response I have gotten, it seems like I have done pretty good to that. So, I'm very happy to have achieved my goal.

JERRY CRAFT: Literally everyone... Some people haven't figured out yet, and then every once in a while says like, "Oh, is that blah, blah, blah." Like, "Yeah." But yes, every single one is some kind of movie or play or a TV show or something like that.

LAUREN: What I liked is it gave you a little preview of what that chapter was going to be about.

LAUREN: My name's Lauren, I'm the children's librarian at Studio City Library. Jerry, I was wondering how you said that the New Kid was sort of autobiographical 60/40, and I adored Jordan's parents. I just adored them. I thought they were so hilarious. And his grandfather when they went out to the Chinese restaurant. I adored them so much. Would you say that was your experience with your parents or are you the parents in the story, that personality of Jordan's parents?

JERRY CRAFT: Yeah, I feel like I am definitely the dad. Whenever I put a grandfather in any of my stories, I always think about my father. I think one of the things why I was able to tell a story that different people can like is, first my experience was me as a kid. Actually going to a school and being the new kid. But then, I also got to watch it as a dad. Some of the things that I was able to remember as a kid, and then all the things I experienced as a dad and being very protective of my own sons. When things happened to them, I was a lot more aware of the things that were happening, than I was when I was a kid. I was like, "Oh yeah, I guess, whatever."

JERRY CRAFT: But then as a dad, I was like, "Oh, well, the reason this happens because of this." You want to be protective, and make sure that your kids are getting a good education. They're being treated fairly and things like that. That's where a lot of that came from.

JERRY CRAFT: Their mom and I definitely spent a lot of time at the school, and we were very interested, and talk to them a lot. She was a private school person too. We both had experiences such as being able to tell our sons, "Well, if you go into school one day, and they're talking about Black history month or civil rights or something like that don't, be shocked if every kid in the class turns and stares at you." I remember that happened. One day my youngest son came home, was like, "Yep. Dad, it happened." I was like, "What?" He says, "Well, they talked about civil rights or slavery or stuff like that, and everyone in the class turned and looked at me." So, because I was able... We were able to warn him. He had, I think a much easier time in his school, then she and I had.

LAUREN: Thank you Jerry. Such great insight. I was wondering because I thought Jordan's parents were fantastic.

JERRY CRAFT: I think that with a lot of books for kids that the parents are always the least interesting. Always bumbling, and the kids spend the whole book yelling at them. They can't get anything right. They can't do this. They can't do that. I really wanted to have a loving relationship with a mom and a dad.

JERRY CRAFT: I know that a lot of books that feature African-American characters, you don't see a mom and dad. It was very important for me to do a grandfather as well. Then one joke that I played on my readers is, in a lot of books, there's someone who passes away, and they miss them. It's like, "Oh, poor grandpa, or grandma or whatever." I said, if I set everyone up to believe that grandpa had gone on to heaven, and that throughout the book, it would be Jordan talking to his grandpa, like a ghost of his grandpa and getting all this stuff, that everyone would just be like, "Oh, poor Jordan. Okay." So, I set it up that way. Then he's like, "Yeah, you know Jordan, I moved to Yonkers." Every time I talk about that scene with someone, and they're like, "Oh, you totally got me." I just laugh.

LAUREN:Thank you very much. Now, I know we have a question in the chat. This question comes from Sora and she asks, when did you decide that you wanted to start drawing?

JERRY CRAFT:It was never a conscious decision. I guess I picked up a crayon one day and, I took a Spiderman comic book, "So, I wonder if I could draw him?" Tried it again, and tried it again, and tried it again. It was so much fun, and I was like, "Boy, if I could do something like that for a living, where I'm like making comic books. Like how cool would that be?" to really enjoy what I do for a living.

JERRY CRAFT: It definitely had its ups and downs. There were times when I didn't think that I would be successful, but I never gave up on it. Even in the beginning, I had to self publish my own books because I could never find a publisher who was interested in my stories.

JERRY CRAFT: In 2014, I illustrated a book for Scholastic called, The Zero Degree Zombie Zone, and then I signed my contract with Harper Collins to do, New Kid, January 2017. I drew every day for like 15, 16 hours a day from January 2017, until February 2018. It came out in February 2019. It took a whole year to come out. There's a lot of work, and I'm putting even more work in doing, Class Act, which is the companion book.

LAUREN: Congratulations, Jerry, because it's just... This is how these books win these awards. It hit everything. I was able to read it a bunch of times, and I don't usually read that many books. You find something new every time you read it.

JERRY CRAFT: I hit so many different things in there. There are characters that have whole story arcs, that I don't even mention who they are. They don't have names but they are in the background. So, when you do read it a second time, you see, "Oh, you know, when Alexandra says she doesn't like spaghetti when she's online. Now I know why" or when this happens, "Oh, okay." That is what I hoped for, that you could reread it a second time or third time and see a bus poster in the background, or that the dog has on a sweater or just different things like that.

JERRY CRAFT: I see one thing in the chat asking me about my favorite author.

JERRY CRAFT: One of my favorite picture book authors is named Eric Velasquez. One of my favorite books that he did is called, Octopus Stew. It's relatively new, and I think it's a lot of fun. It's also a book featuring kids of color, and a family of color, where there's a great family life and the kid uses his imagination. There's nothing that's bad and sad like a lot.

JERRY CRAFT: Some of the older books, Elizabeth Acevedo is one of my favorites when Renee Watson of course, Kwame Alexander. There are so many more books now, that I think I would have loved as a kid, and it would have made me a reader much younger.

LAUREN: Octopus Stew, good grandma in that one.

JERRY CRAFT: Yep. Yep, absolutely.

LAUREN: Okay. I see Sebastian is here.

SEBASTIEN: I listened to the audiobook, and I thought the style that you did it in was really cool. I was wondering why you decided to make the graphic novel into an audiobook?

JERRY CRAFT: Thank you, Sebastian. That is interesting because it wasn't my idea. It was my publisher at Harper Collins, and they said, "Hey, we want to make New Kid into an audiobook." I had never heard of that. I was hoping that they wouldn't ask me to read it. I'd have to do all the voices and be like, "Jordan breakfast is ready." "Okay, mom." I was like, "Oh, that is going to be terrible."

JERRY CRAFT: They had me listen to a graphic novel that they had done that with called Nimona. When I listened to Nimona, and I heard the sound effects and the different characters and stuff like that, I was like, "Oh, that's what they want to do." I got really excited.

JERRY CRAFT: When I went down and heard it for the first time... When they sent me a copy, I had thought that it was absolutely amazing. It was so good. All the voices were spot on. The stuff that they did with the director and the actors and everything. I really enjoyed it. I cannot wait to hear book two.

SEBASTIEN: Okay. Thanks.

JERRY CRAFT: Thank you.

LAUREN: Thank you, Sebastien.

LAUREN: We just have one last question from Isaac. Isaac wants to know, did you also go to a school with rich kids? Because I do. Did it make you feel like an outsider?

JERRY CRAFT: Absolutely. I know... When I went to the school in Riverdale, there were so many kids and my dad would come to pick me up in our family Ford. Meanwhile, they were in Mercedes and Rolls-Royces, and all these really fancy cars. Some of them had drivers and things like that. It was very interesting. Then the same thing happened with my sons and, I would go to pick them up at school. They had some really amazing houses. We'd go to their houses, it was like, "Wow, like, you know, you could fit my house in there three times."

JERRY CRAFT: The same thing with vacations, we might've gone to see family locally or drive to Philly or somewhere. They were going like, "Oh, where'd you go on summer vacation?" "Oh, we went to the moon, you know, my dad hired the space shuttle." "Wow." I know that, that's kids. I don't think most of them never meant to be mean spirited or anything, but you also don't understand what it's like if everyone has gone to Greece, and then you went to super Walmart to buy a new Xbox game, and that's how you spent spring break.

JERRY CRAFT: I just wanted to make people a little bit more empathetic. So, if that does happen, then they will have a little bit more of an understanding of what some of their friends may be going through.

LAUREN: Great question and great answer. Thank you, Jerry.

LAUREN: I was thinking about how you made Jordan, and he had empathy as throughout the book, as he is just getting used to school. You see his empathy with Alexandra, and sitting with her and actually finding out why she's wearing that puppet on her hands. Even during the holiday season, his parents bought him, finally, the modern NBA 2K.


LAUREN: And he hides the gift from Liam in the room to not hurt his parents' feelings. It was just little things like that, Jerry. You did such a great job, because it was the little things. Because your themes were wonderful, but with the little things you did throughout the book that made it outstanding. I thank you for joining us.

JERRY CRAFT: Thank you.

JERRY CRAFT: Yeah. I think life is about doing the little things. Learning how to properly pronounce your friend's name. Whether or not they are Korean or, Japanese or Chinese. Little things like that really do make a difference, when you take the time to get to know someone. That is the kind of thing that I hope that my fans and readers will take from the book and actually put in that extra effort.

MILES: Thanks for listening to the Children Chatting With Authors Podcast.

[Music outro]

DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a certified or verbatim transcript, but rather represents only the context of the class or meeting, subject to the inherent limitations of real-time captioning. The primary focus of real-time captioning is general communication access and as such this document is not suitable, acceptable, nor is it intended for use in any type of legal proceeding.Transcript by