Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate | SLJ Audio Review

redstarAPPLEGATE, Katherine. Crenshaw. 3 CDs. 3:18 hrs. Listening Library. 2015. $38. ISBN 9780399564673. digital download. crenshaw

Gr 4-6 –Jackson was seven the last time he saw his bubble-bathing, purple jelly bean–loving friend Crenshaw. But now that Jackson is 10, the oversize imaginary feline explains, “You need a bigger friend now.” Jackson and his family must sell everything they can to pay their overdue rent and avoid living in their minivan—again. Jackson knows hunger and daily uncertainty too well. He’s shoplifted to feed his (real-life) dog and his younger sister. He can’t tell anyone about his dire situation: “Sometimes facts are too hard to share.” But with Crenshaw’s urging, he’ll finally confront his parents with the most difficult conversation of his young life. Applegate here addresses challenging subjects that haunt children forced to grow up too soon. Crenshaw proves to be the perfect, gentle guide: “Imaginary friends are like books. We’re created, we’re enjoyed, we’re dog-eared and creased and then we’re tucked away until we’re needed again.” Narrator Kirby Heyborne keeps perfect pace with Jackson’s frustrations and resolve, imbues Crenshaw with whimsy and wisdom, and easily distinguishes the many supporting characters, especially Jackson’s best friend Marisol, with deftness and grace. VERDICT An essential acquisition for middle grade collections everywhere. [“A compelling and unflinchingly honest treatment of a difficult topic”: SLJ 8/15 starred review of the Feiwel & Friends book.]–Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

This review was published in the School Library Journal March 2016 issue.

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