Author: Katherine Applegate
Synopsis: 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?
Huge thank you to Raincoast Books for this ARC!
I read Crenshaw in an afternoon. It’s one of those books that does a great job of sucking the reader into a story that is about family, childhood, homelessness and big kitty cats. Jackson is a boy who thinks he’s too old for an imaginary friend, but when his family falls on rough times, a large, loveable cat named Crenshaw comes to his aid.
The story itself is quite simplistic, but very sweet in nature. Jackson and his sister Robyn are trying to comprehend their parent’s financial situation. Their parents work so many jobs and can barely make ends me. This book is quite relevant in a lot of ways to the economic situation in the world — there’s more part-time work being created, but the money is never enough to support a whole family, let alone a single person. It made me so sad in a lot of ways, especially when Jackson would describe how they would all sleep in the van every night, dreaming of a place to call home.
What I loved in this story was Crenshaw himself. Crenshaw would appear in a lot of humorous ways, my favourite being the bathtub incident at the beginning of the story. I love the message that he represents as well, that people in times of need turn to something else as means to survive, to keep living. Imaginary friends, as Crenshaw puts it, will always be a part of who you are, and that’s regardless of age. Especially because Jackson thinks at age twelve, that am imaginary friend is just a silly concept.
It’s heartbreaking that homelessness is just such a common problem that people choose to ignore. This book looks at both the consequences of being homeless, and how hard people must work to at their lives and family to keep things afloat. While I did think the story wrapped up too easily, I appreciate the simplicity in the story, because it felt like a warm blanket. Reading this book didn’t make me feel alone, it made me feel a sense of love. The book has a beautiful message about life and family, and I think it’s definitely worth checking out for lovers of gentler middle grade stories.