Craft, Jerry

No Dessert: A Conversation with Jerry Craft


Jerry Craft is a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator you may know from his middle grade graphic novels, New Kid, Class Act, and School Trip. New Kid has the distinction of being incredibly popular with both critics and readers, winning the 2019 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature, the 2020 Coretta Scott King Author Award, and being the first graphic novel to win a Newbery. Ever. Its sequel Class Act was also popular, and School Trip, according to the author, “may be the best one yet, and a great note to end the series.”

So many big awards for the first book in the series might make it seem like there was pressure for the other books to perform as well. However, Craft says he was “more excited than nervous to have [his] fans read the new story. There was a lot more pressure with the release of Class Act since that was the book that followed New Kid…Obviously, that was a tough act to follow, and I definitely did not want to be seen as a one-hit-wonder. But once I saw that Class Act was also well received, I had a lot more confidence with School Trip.”

One of the best parts of the series is its humor, something Craft was already familiar with through his work in his comic strip “Mama’s Boyz.” Craft has said in other interviews that the pacing of the humor in his books is a little different than the humor he used for “Mama’s Boyz,” so we asked him how the pacing of storylines in the graphic novels differed from the comic strip. Craft said that “It was very challenging to do a longer format. With my Mama’s Boyz comic strip, it was basically panel, panel, punchline. And since it was weekly, I didn’t often do longer stories because it would take forever, so for the most part they were pretty self-contained. To go from that to a 250-page graphic novel was perhaps my biggest challenge.”

What’s the key to the success of these books? Graphic novels are increasingly popular, with books like Jason Reynolds’ Long Way Down being adapted to the format. Would Craft’s books have been received differently if he’d written them as regular novels instead of graphic novels? Craft says “I think that what is so different [about turning a novel into a graphic novel] is that they had to bring in an artist to give their interpretation of the text. That would make me nervous, since I’ve never really collaborated with anyone to make my books. When I self-published for two decades, I brought other author’s stories to life. But I have never had someone have to do that for me. So I feel very blessed to be able to illustrate my own stories and not have to hear about which version is better.  Plus, I get to hold the fact that I can write and draw over my buddy Kwame Alexander’s head.”

Of course, fans of this fantastic author/illustrator will want to know what he’s doing next, and Craft says not to worry, because “I already have my next trilogy in the planning stages, but you know I can’t talk about it.” Thus, unfortunately, “you just got your readers excited, and now you’re putting them to bed with no dessert. Sorry, everyone.”


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