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Crenshaw Hardcover – September 22, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–6—In her first novel since the Newbery-winning The One and Only Ivan (HarperCollins, 2012), Applegate tells the story of a 10-year-old boy whose imaginary friend helps him cope with a family crisis. Jackson, his parents, and his five-year-old sister once again are staring down the barrel of an impending eviction notice. What frustrates Jackson isn't just the lack of money: it's his artistically minded parents' tendency to gloss over their woes with humor and cheer rather than acknowledging the reality of their situation. It's understandably a shock to Jackson when an old friend reappears: Crenshaw, a seven-foot-tall talking cat, who first came into his life several years ago when the boy and his family were living out of their car shortly after his father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Skeptical Jackson tries to dismiss Crenshaw as a figment of his imagination, but the cat's words of wisdom start to resonate with him. Employing sparse but elegant prose, Applegate has crafted an authentic protagonist whose self-possession and maturity conceal relatable vulnerability and fears. While sardonic Crenshaw may not be the warm and cuddly imaginary friend readers are expecting, he's the companion that Jackson truly needs as he begins to realize that he doesn't need to carry the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Though the ending wraps up a shade too neatly, overall, children will appreciate this heartbreaking novel. VERDICT A compelling and unflinchingly honest treatment of a difficult topic.—Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal
“This accessible and moving novel demonstrates how the creative resilience of a child's mind can soften difficult situations, while exploring the intersection of imagination and truth.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The tone is warm and, occasionally, quirkily funny, but it doesn't sugarcoat the effects of hunger and vulnerability. This novel adds a middle-grade perspective to the literature of imaginary friends and paints a convincing and compassionate portrait of a social class―the working poor―underrepresented in children's books.” ―The Horn Book, starred review
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Top customer reviews
FOR PARENTS - CONTAINS SPOILERS
If your child is sensitive (like mine are), it may help to know that the imaginary friend is silly enough to break up the tension on a regular basis. Many of the most-difficult moments of the book happen in the past (from the previous time this boy had to live in the van with his family and their puppy for 14 weeks), so you know they eventually made it out. And although he mentions having seen his dad cry (the only time he had seen such a thing), most of the darker moments focus on things like the van being smelly, or how he didn't like his younger sister kicking him in her sleep (so he decorated a cardboard panel to put in between them). There's a lot of generosity/kindness from strangers, which helps a lot even though they *were* still living in a van, which keeps you empathizing with them but not spiraling into despair. There are also a couple of places where he says "I know other people have it much, much worse, but I still hate this," which again triggers empathy and understanding, without minimizing what anyone has to go through... making you aware of those darker stories, but not taking you into them. Finally, fortunately, at the end of this novel, the family finds a temporary place to stay (an old, run-down, one-room apartment) so again it's clearly not sunshine and roses, but hopeful. The author truly does a masterful job of introducing this difficult topic in a way that creates empathy while being enjoyable and (for most kids) non-traumatizing.
Read the book's description if you want to know the ostensible story. The story is about doubt and worry; and how a child shifts from these to a greater sense of self and centered-ness.
Some books are for giving away and others are for sharing. This one is definitely for sharing.
This is a good book for Read Loud in an upper elementary/early middle school class.
My students have enjoyed the story and it has also allowed our class to discuss real world issues such as homelessness and childhood hunger.
I highly recommend this conversation stimulating book- but only for older/more mature students.
Most recent customer reviews
I really liked this one. Applegate made a book dealing with poverty and the kids who are just trying to make it.Read more