Thursday, September 10, 2015

MIDDLE GRADE BOOK REVIEW: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate


ABOUT THE BOOK

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.

REVIEW

After falling in love with Applegate's The One and Only Ivan, I've been looking forward to reading what she came up with next.  And I was not disappointed.  Once again Applegate delivers a tender story about a hard topic, this time it's homelessness from the perspective of a child.  Using the coping mechanism of an imaginary friend, the reader follows the struggles of Jackson and his family through the sale of much of their furniture and lack of regular meals.  There is even a flashback to a time when the family lived in the car for several months.  Through it all, Jackson tries hard to be brave and practical, but underneath he worries a great deal about what's going to happen to their family.  Crenshaw, the invisible friend, returns after an absence of several years, much to Jackson's chagrin.  He likes to focus on facts and an imaginary friend just isn't factual.  Jackson refuses to acknowledge Crenshaw's efforts to help, until his fears overwhelm him and he reluctantly admits to the truth.  The author has created a tender story about the love of a family and a child's need for home and security.  Crenshaw steps forward as Jackson's copying mechanism.  This book reminded me of Patrick Ness's A Monster Calls except not so anguish-filled and more appropriate for a younger age group.  I can highly recommend this book as a sweet story, beautifully told, but also a powerful look at an issue that all too many children are familiar with.  Stories like this help child readers develop greater empathy.

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