Sunday, July 3, 2016

Crenshaw (Katherine Applegate)

Katherine Applegate
Feiwel and Friends
Fiction, YA Fantasy
****+ (Good/Great)

DESCRIPTION: As a fifth-grader, Jackson should be too old for imaginary friends. He prefers facts to imagination, anyway; facts are solid and stable, unlike his home life, with a pest of a kid sister and two musician parents struggling to make ends meet. Though Mom and Dad won't admit it, they may end up losing their apartment and living out of a minivan again. That was the first time Jackson met the talking cat Crenshaw... but that was three years ago. He was just a little kid then. But now that he's returned, the giant talking cat refuses to leave. Little as he wants to admit it, Jackson could use a good friend right now - even one whose existence defies every fact in the book.

REVIEW: Like Applegate's award-winning The One and Only Ivan (reviewed previously on this blog), this outwardly-simple story hides some complicated realities and thorny emotional moments. Jackson clings to facts so hard that he can't allow for magic and wonderment, though his best efforts fail to prevent lies and uncertainties from perpetually creeping into his life. Crenshaw defies his ideal, ordered world - and he finds it very hard to dismiss the cat as a mere hallucination, not when the family dog Aretha reacts to his presence and Crenshaw seems to know more than the boy who ostensibly created him. The cat is a fun character, both a whimsical friend for a child in need and his own entity, a guardian angel in tuxedo-cat fur. There's more to the whole imaginary-friend business than a logical boy like Jackson can fathom, and there's more to life than the facts he clings to so hard. Themes of homelessness and pride and flawed families run through the background as boy and cat struggle with burdens no child should face in an ideal world... but, then, the world isn't an ideal place, and learning to cope with that is the first big step towards growing up. It may not end with the happily-ever-after some children's books would insist upon, but the conclusion nevertheless satisfies.

You Might Also Enjoy:
The One and Only Ivan (Katherine Applegate) - My Review
The Tiger Rising (Kate DiCamillo) - My Review
Griffin's Castle (Jenny Nimmo) - My Review

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