Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Published by Feiwel & Friends on September 22, 2015
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.
After reading The One and Only Ivan, I was absolutely drawn to this book. I knew that I would love it because I love Applegate's work. I was a little nervous, though, because I don't usually read Middle Grade books. I was concerned that it would be a bit too "young" for me. I am pleased to report that I was absolutely amazed by this one. In fact, I am looking into getting a full set of this novel for my classroom.
Growing up, life wasn't always perfect. There were deaths and illness in our family, much like in every other family. However, my parents strongly believed that my brother, sister, and I were kids and should be able to act like it. We knew when people were sick and we were glad to help out, but it was not something that constantly burdened us. If there were any financial troubles, I still don't know about them. We were kids. They were the adults. We had our places and our jobs. I bring all of this up to explain the absolute shock and dismay I felt when I realized that Jackson knows exactly what's going on with his family and that he felt responsible for his family. Jackson's ability to care for them and to do what he intuitively knew they needed him to impressed me. I really struggled with the fact that any kid should have to live like that. I'm not completely naive. I know that there are several kids who are in the same position as Jackson, but it was a massive wake up call to see what that role might be like. I am not the only person who needs this jolt, however. There are many people in our nation who strongly believe that the only reason a person would be homeless is if they are lazy. Applegate's writing calls attention to the truth of the matter. That homeless people may simply be suffering as a result of bad circumstances. That we are all able to lend a helping hand.
Applegate's ability to build unbelievably dynamic characters permeates this novel. Jackson is a funny kid with a very old soul. He needs friends and he needs to be honest with himself and those around him. He is a kid that any of my students would be able to relate to. He demonstrates what youth is like in today's world. Applegate's creation of such a realistic character was a wonderful pairing for his imaginary friend-a giant cat. Jackson and Crenshaw represent the worlds of realism and imagination respectively and demonstrate the need for both parts of life.
I am absolutely in love with this novel. Even though it has been a few days since I finished it, I am still considering the many themes that Applegate brings to life. Although this is a Middle Grade novel, Applegate makes sure that there is something for everyone.