Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

I received this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My oldest daughter and I absolutely loved The One and Only Ivan, so I was very excited about the opportunity to read Katherine Applegate’s newest novel, Crenshaw.

Jackson is a young boy who lives in an apartment with his parents and his sister. The family doesn’t have a lot of money, and Jackson and his sister are often hungry.
Jackson is a very intelligent boy, who loves animals and relies on facts. When he begins to see a giant cat named Crenshaw, he isn’t sure what to think of this development. After all, it is a fact that imaginary friends are just that- imaginary. They aren’t real. They can’t be real. Or are they?

As Jackson watches his parents gathering up most of their possessions to sell at a yard sale, the family’s financial situation becomes more apparent. There is the possibility that they will have to leave their apartment and live in their van, something that happened several years ago. It was at this point in his life that Crenshaw appeared the first time. Has Crenshaw returned to help Jackson again?

This was an incredibly poignant story. Jackson is an incredibly mature and insightful boy. He cares deeply about his family, especially his little sister, who he tries to protect from seeing how dire things are. Jackson loves his parents, but he is frustrated with the situation. He also struggles with the possibility of losing his home, his friends, and having to leave his school and go somewhere else. Applegate deftly weaves a story that shines a light on the reality of homelessness: the struggle for some families to keep up with the bills, and how suddenly families can lose everything. Jackson’s parents are not drug users or lazy (insidious stereotypes); they are average adults who work multiple jobs and try to provide their children with the best life possible.

Crenshaw is an emotionally powerful book best suited for children in elementary school. Jackson is the only person who can see the giant cat, and he (Crenshaw) is often spotted doing funny things like riding a surfboard or taking a bubble bath. These moments of comic relief help break the tension, and once Jackson accepts Crenshaw as real, the cat provides the boy with much needed emotional support. This book will surely become a classic, just like The One and Only Ivan.

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