Cartoonist Jerry Craft‘s middle grade graphic novel, New Kid, was released in 2019, and last year became the first graphic novel ever to be awarded the John Newbery Medal as “the most distinguished American children’s book published the previous year.” So it’s no surprise that Universal Pictures acquired the rights to New Kid in 2020 as part of its four-year first-look deal with The SpringHill Company, which optioned the novel in 2019. Today it was announced that Prentice Penny has been tapped to to direct the New Kid film from a script adapted by Eli Wilson Pelton.
Best known for his television work, Penny served as showrunner, executive producer and a frequent director HBO’s hit comedy Insecure. In 2020, Penny made his made his feature directorial and screenwriting debut with the Netflix original film Uncorked, inspired by his own life. Pelton meanwhile worked with Penny on Insecure as a writer and executive story editor and currently serves as a producer on the hit Netflix series Bridgerton.
New Kid follows seventh-grader Jordan Bank as he enters a prestigious private school and finds himself one of only a few students of color in his class. A sequel graphic novel, Class Act, was released in 2020, and quickly shot to the top of the New York Times Bestseller list and found its way onto a number of year-end “Best Of” lists.
The timing of the announcement is interesting given New Kid‘s history, and in the wake of the recent Maus banning in Tennessee. It was just last October that both New Kid and Class Act were pulled from school libraries Katy Independent School District libraries in Katy, TX after parents expressed concerns over the themes in the books and promoting Critical Race Theory. This wasn’t the graphic novel’s first brush with controversy as a Pennsylvania school district banned the book as an educational resource in 2020, however this ban was overturned in September 2021 after protests by parents and students.