In her previous novel, the Newbery Medal-winning The One and Only Ivan, Katherine Applegate tackled issues of animal welfare while offering readers the opportunity to expand what they typically expect from traditional storytelling. In Crenshaw, Applegate once again tackles big issues with plenty of heart and humor.
Almost-fifth-grader Jackson literally can’t believe his eyes when he sees a giant, smart-alecky cat. Again. The last time he saw his “imaginary friend” Crenshaw, Jackson was just a little kid, and his family was going through some pretty tough times—so tough that they had to live in their minivan for a while. Now Crenshaw is back—but so are Jackson’s family’s money problems.
As Jackson’s parents try to make ends meet, Jackson struggles to figure out what Crenshaw’s reappearance means and how Jackson can help his family finally tell each other the truth.
Despite the fact that one of its central characters is a giant talking cat, Crenshaw is a surprisingly somber book at times, with a so- phisticated narrative structure that shifts back and forth in Jackson’s life story. By adding elements of fantasy and whimsy, however, Applegate is able to address issues such as poverty and food insecurity in a way that kids will respond to, perhaps thinking about their friends and neighbors—or, like Jackson, even themselves—with greater sympathy, generosity and understanding.