I am back tonight with a review which seems overdue. I sure go through phases of review writing motivation and the last week or so I haven’t done much reviewing so they are piling up a bit again. I am excited to share my review of Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate.
A good friend of mine told me about this book after her book club read it. I was excited to read something else by the author of The One and Only Ivan which is still one of my favorite Newbery winners that I’ve read to date. I am hoping to reread that one before I read the sequel (The One and Only Bob) this summer.
I am glad to have read this delightful little book that also tackles intense issues like homelessness and financial strain in a family.
- I loved the unexplainable magic of the story. Purple jelly beans, Crenshaw surfing, bubble baths, and Aretha snuggles. I liked the way the unexplained can be good and worth experiencing even if there isn’t a logical explanation
- I wish I had an imaginary friend like Crenshaw. No, I wish Crenshaw was my imaginary friend and I am not even a cat person.
According to Goodreads, “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.”
The absolute highlight of this story is Crenshaw himself. That imaginary cat is simply delightful! I loved his witty, endearing personality and the way that everything he says seems so obvious. We never know when he will show up or what he will be doing. From surfing to taking bubble baths, he is a surprise almost constantly. I loved how he insists on helping Jackson and the ways that he finds his way into Jackson’s heart despite Jackson’s insistence on being brave and factual all the time. Crenshaw is so good for him! I also loved the details about imaginary friends and what they do and where they go– so clever! Again, I don’t usually care for cats but I came to really enjoy Crenshaw and wished he could become my imaginary friend.
I really enjoyed the point of view in this story with Jackson as narrator. He’s so factual and logical on the surface. But underneath, he’s a scared little boy who wants his family to stay together and to have more stability in his life. I also enjoyed his friendship with Marisol and the way he takes care of his little sister. I appreciated the way he saw the situation with his family and their financial difficulties. It was really interesting to read his memories of living in their van and how they managed to get food and eventually afford their apartment. Kids understand a lot more than grown ups give them credit for at times. They listen and they care about their little worlds. Jackson is a perfect example of this.
Applegate’s writing style is one of my favorites. Her chapters are quick and clever. And the plots are always laid out before us so we think we know where the action is going but I often find myself surprised along the way. I always read her books quickly because they are so enjoyable and easy to get into. Her stories draw readers in and Crenshaw is no different. Few people can avoid turning the page to read more about the giant surfing cat we encounter in the first chapter of this one. I think this would be a fun read aloud too. I would read aloud to older kids because of some more intense topics of discussion.
This book was unexpectedly sad as it discusses homelessness and kids. I thought the whole backstory about living in their car and their dad begging for money was just heartbreaking. And I was a bit frustrated with the parents for not taking care of their family consistently. Yes, I understand that these issues exist and it’s important to teach kids empathy and kindness towards others especially those less fortunate. But as a parent, I didn’t always agree with the parents’ decisions in this book. For example, if money is so tight, why do you have a dog? That seems like an optional expense. It was just sad that they were falling back into the same problems and couldn’t seem to get out of the homeless cycle. Again, I understand the importance of discussing these types of issues and appreciate this story for adding a new perspective to the debate.
Overall, I enjoyed this novel about lovable Crenshaw and how he helps Jackson. It’s a story that shows the hardships of life but also the unexpected joys and hope for the future. You won’t regret meeting Crenshaw!
Have you read any other books about imaginary friends?
Which middle grade books discuss important themes that moved you?