Middle Grade Book Review | CRENSHAW by Katherine Applegate

Age: Middle Grade
Author: Katherine Applegate


In her first novel since The One and Only Ivan, winner of the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.

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?


#Sorrynotsorry, but I totally judged this book by its cover. From the second I saw it, I had a feeling I'd enjoy this story. And I was right. Who doesn't love books about imaginary friends and, well, giant cats? :)

I have to say, I was surprised by the depth in which Jackson's family's money hardships were described. To me, this gave the whole story a different feel and, being a mama of three, the thought of two kids being homeless (with their parents who were trying really hard to get things right) really rattled me. I know it happens. I don't live in my Happy Bubble all the time. But being aware of it and spending a few hours reading about it are two different things. I was forced to give this issue a lot of thought ... and I don't think that's a bad thing for adults or the children who might read this.

Jackson often felt older to me than he actually was, and at times I had to remind myself how young he was. Other than that minor annoyance, he was a very likable kid and I enjoyed getting to know him.

Crenshaw was charming and I loved the visuals the author painted. I could totally see Crenshaw in my mind and could hear his "fancy" voice. I wish we had more time with him - I feel like he was far more secondary than I expected.

I also would have liked to spend more time with the idea of imaginary friends. They are so important to so many children, and I think the author could make this into a series (are there plans to do so? If not, there should be!). We get some insight into other imaginary friends within this book, but it felt more like a quick mention rather than a cool exploration. I definitely think this story could have delved deeper here.

While I wouldn't call this a "fun" read, there were funny moments. The characters were developed and realistic. And I felt something, which is always a good thing.

Overall, I give this book a solid 4 stars (actually, 4.25!). If you're an adult who enjoys reading Kid Lit, pick this one up, then pass it to your late elementary- or middle-schooler when you're done.

Reviewer's Note: I selected this book and read it on my own volition. I did not receive a review copy.

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