Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (September 22, 2015)
EGalley provided by Feiwel and Netgalley free in return for an honest review.
So this story showed up in my inbox at Netgalley and it is by an award winning author so I said Ok and went for it. I finished the story in under two hours and then sat on a review for two weeks. This is a tale of an unusual friendship between a boy and a large cat creature named Crenshaw. Fans of Japanese animation will find many similarities between Crenshaw and Studio Ghibli stories and characters (Totoro, fantastic mr fox etc) And while I did think Ms. Applegate’ earlier acclaimed novel about a gorilla named Ivan told a story that fostered good dialogue, this novel seems to be trying to force an issue into it rather than letting the tale tell itself.
Jackson knows something is wrong in his family. His Dad can’t get work since getting ill, and his Mom works two jobs and there never seems to be enough food to eat. Then there is this latest yard sale, where absolutely everything they own is being sold to make some money. Leaving Jackson and his sister with just what they can put in a trash bag. Along comes Crenshaw, Jackson’ imaginary friend to help him out and get him through this hard time.
I am not a huge fan of a stories written -with an agenda- however, a great novel dealing with relatable kids going through becoming homeless is relevant. My problem is less with the subject and more with the execution. I could never tell if this was supposed to be a serious story, or a flight of fantasy. And the ending was a little too fairytale for this subject as well. Despite the seriousness of the subject matter, the story is actually pretty light on well, a story. It felt like a junior novella not a complete novel. If the cover and Crenshaw were more relevant to the story and a little less cartoony then possibly I would rate this higher. I also might be suffering from a bit of expectation letdown. I expected a fantasy, but got a completely different story.
All that said though, it is a story that brings up something worth talking about, and that is homelessness, and its effects on families. So, be prepared to have an honest discussion with your children about what we tell them and why as parents we feel the need to shelter our kids from hard truths.