February 19, 2018

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Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate | SLJ Review

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crenshawAPPLEGATE, Katherine. Crenshaw. 352p. Feiwel & Friends. Sept. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250043238.
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 review was published in School Library Journal‘s August 2015 issue.

Mahnaz Dar About Mahnaz Dar

Mahnaz Dar (mdar@mediasourceinc.com) is Assistant Managing Editor for Library Journal and School Library Journal and can be found on Twitter @DibblyFresh.

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