Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate, Feiwel & Friends, September 2015. ARC provided by NetGalley.
Genre: Realistic/Magical Realism
Good for: Grades 3 to 6
Summary: Soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson is a pragmatist whose number one rule is that there's an explanation for everything. So when his old imaginary friend, a cat named Crenshaw suddenly reappears, he doesn't quite believe it. His first appearance had been 3 years earlier when Jackson and his family had been forced to live out of their van. Now with the threat of homelessness looming again, Crenshaw is there to help Jackson in his time of need.
Thoughts: This book really tugged at my heartstrings. It's a unique take on the issue of poverty. Jackson's father is dealing with losing a good job due to multiple sclerosis and both parents are working part-time jobs just to make ends meet. But it isn't enough and the family goes through cycles of hard times where it's sometimes a challenge just to get food on the table. Jackson is going through a rough patch emotionally where he's now old enough to understand what's happening, though his parents are still trying to shelter him and his younger sister from it. Crenshaw serves as a device for Jackson to hopefully be able to tell his parents the truth about how he really feels even though he puts on a brave face. There's definitely an underlying sadness throughout, but it's coupled with a hopefulness that it so important in children's literature.
The writing style is simple, but lovely. Jackson is a character that readers will want befriend and/or give a big, warm hug to. Using a giant, charismatic cat as a device for dealing with difficult emotions is smart and effective.
Give this to kids who loved books like Keeper, The Higher Power of Lucky, or The Underneath. This would be a great choice for a book club.
My Goodreads Rating: 4 out of 5 stars