Gowanda Central School District welcomed New York Times best-selling author and illustrator Jerry Craft to campus Thursday, June 8, 2023, for a day of discussions with students at the elementary, middle and high school levels.
Craft has had an impressive career; his graphic novel “New Kid’ is the first and only book to win the Newbery Award, Corretta Scott King award, and the Kirkus Prize. His books have been translated into 13 different languages and Craft meets virtually with children all over the world.
Craft recently appeared on “The Daily Show” to promote “School Trip,” his third book in the critically acclaimed “New Kid” series, which has been optioned by Universal Pictures for a feature film to be produced by LeBron James. Gowanda middle and high students have been enjoying reading an e-book version of “New Kid” on their Chromebooks via a collaboration with Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES. Craft kicked off the day at the middle and high school before heading to the elementary school for a presentation.
Craft’s tales have roots in his experience of growing up the youngest and smallest in his class and the personal and social struggles associated in forming friendships amid unfamiliar faces after enrolling at a private school.
“As a child I went from reading Dr. Seuss to Marvel comics, to reading nothing at all,” says Craft, who disliked all the books assigned by his teachers and began to believe he had to suffer to be a real reader. “I’d rather clean my room than read books. No kid should see a book and be intimidated.”
So, he worked on developing his skills and now writes books that kids want to read.
“I couldn’t always draw like this,” says Craft, who grew up doodling superheroes on the blank spaces of his school work printouts.
He described his journey from a reluctant reader unable to find books that appealed to him, to artist to storyteller to publisher. He discussed the concepts of foreshadowing, rewriting, and redesigning. As his confidence grew, he began to flesh out his stories more, starting with a 96-page book to build confidence to completing a fully fleshed-out, 250-page graphic novel. The hard work, concentration and the ability to handle rejection all featured in his growth.
Craft, who tailors his presentations to the grade levels he is visiting, highlighted the process of creating a graphic novel and getting it published. He admitted to feeling as though he wasn’t a talented enough artist when he was younger while simultaneously demonstrating on a large easel how he currently draws his characters. As his skills developed, so did his confidence.
“I decided if I couldn’t find books I want to read, then I was going to have to write them myself,” says Craft, who now travels the country presenting about his “show and tell” journey to becoming a New York Times best-selling author and says his career has surpassed his wildest dreams. “All from a kid who hated to read.”
Craft’s appearance was facilitated by middle school library media specialist Mrs. Kathy Degenfelder, who collaborated with high school librarian Kim Nobles with support from elementary library teacher Melanie Rosier.
Visit https://jerrycraft.com/ to learn more about Craft.