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Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: September 22, 2015
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.
Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There's no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.
Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken, and he's imaginary. He has come back into Jackson's life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?
Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary.
Oh! The feels! This book will get any parent right in the feels. It is told from the perspective of Jackson as his family is going through really hard times (again!). We all want to protect our children from the harsh realities of the world, especially if those harsh realities involve our own personal finances! Jackson knows what's going on - he's a big kid and wishes his parents would just level with him instead of trying to pretend everything is happy-go-lucky all the time. And just as things are getting really bad, fact-loving, scientist-wannabe Jackson finds his old imaginary friend, Crenshaw, has shown back up in his life.
Crenshaw turns out to be Jackson's Jiminy Cricket, helping him through a really tough time. He is a big, funny cat who always has the right advice. Jackson wishes Crenshaw away - after all, he's too old for imaginary friends - but just like a real friend, Crenshaw isn't going anywhere as long as Jackson still needs him. This book covers some pretty dark topics for a book aimed at elementary kids - homelessness, sick parents, hunger. It would have been hard to pull off in an age-appropriate manner without the plot device of a funny, imaginary friend. For all of Crenshaw's necessity and likeability, I still think he wasn't as refined or as integral to the story as he could or should have been. Either go with the fantasy element of an imaginary friend or not. He felt underdeveloped. I still really liked the book though and would love to have my own big, fluffy Crenshaw following me around.
I would recommend this as a read aloud with your kids. There are a lot of big topics in here that kids are likely going to have questions about and will need a parent's immediate and heartfelt answers. And it's pretty scary - the idea of losing your home and a sick parent. Common Sense Media has a few talking point questions you might want to bring up with your kids. This is not a light and fluffy read but I recommend it nonetheless. This is exactly the sort of story that helps develop empathy for others and we need more empathy in the world - now and always.
Miss R's review
It was a pretty cool book. I like that it's kind of sad and touching but at the end, it's the not happiest but it's pretty nice. I don't want to spoil it.
Crenshaw is a cat. I liked to imagine him as a purple cat but he was supposed to be black and white. He tries to help Jackson be safe. He doesn't really get too come and help Jackson that much. It's only when an imaginary friend's real friend needs help that they can come help them. I think it was a really cute book. I loved Crenshaw the cat.
I think it would be good for kids who don't mind a little bit of sadness in their books. It might be too much for kids who are super sensitive to sad stuff.