Jerry Craft’s New Kid, the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Award, is a gentle middle grade tale with an anti-bullying message, based on Craft’s own experiences as a Black student at a predominantly white private school. The series has been targeted by groups that want to remove it from school libraries—and some have succeeded. Craft is currently on a promotional tour for the third title in the trilogy, School Trip.

Is it true that elementary school kids can’t read New Kid in the Esambia County, Fla., school system?

They did take it out of the elementary school, but luckily they left it for middle school and high school. There’s a heartbreaking video that PEN America shared. This kid is nine years old, and on a day when he should have been out playing with his friends or reading a good book, he is dressed up and speaking in front of the school board to defend New Kid. He says, “This book taught me that it’s not okay to be mean to people, that everyone has a story. It makes me want to listen, and treat people better. So please don’t take this book off the shelves.”

In general, would you say that New Kid has been upheld more than it’s been removed?

Yes, if there is a school board that actually does their job and reads the book. No one has ever said, “My kid read this and came to me, saying, Mom, I feel guilty for being white because I read New Kid.” I’m a father, and I do have the right to tell my kids what video games they could play. That is every parent’s right. But if I’m raising my kid to be a vegetarian, that doesn’t give me the right to slap a hamburger out of your kid’s hands. That’s what these people are doing—no hamburgers, for anyone.

You’ve done a lot of big press appearances. How has that gone?

I think initially my publisher might have been a little nervous about me going on Don Lemon and Joy Reid and NPR because everyone is looking for a sound bite. But I was just hoping that if they saw me as a person they’d see who I am, someone who’s spent my life coaching my kids’ baseball teams and basketball teams.

Has the tour for School Trip been affected by the controversy?

If I was starting from scratch, I would not know that there was any kind of adversity. I’m drawing cartoons, and talking about the importance of reading, and empathy, and that school should be a safe place for everyone. We should all just be better.