Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Description (from GoodReads.com):
"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?"
"I noticed several weird things about the surfboarding cat." With this great first line you'd never know this story covers such a serious topic.
This short book talked about an issue that many children are facing today, poverty. Many kids in this country do not know where their next meal is coming from, if they will stay at the same school as last year, or even where they will fall asleep at night. With the downturn of the economy, a lot of families had to make cutbacks and that is what makes this story feel genuine.
Crenshaw covers how these types of situations are seen through a child's eyes. Although his parents are not likely to admit it, Jackson does notice things and realizes that his parents are struggling to take care of him and his sister. Although there are other options, Jackson's parents do not like taking handouts and refuse to rely on relatives to get back on their feet. When Jackson finally tells them how he feels about all of this, (with the guidance of Crenshaw), they realize that maybe being honest with their kids is really what is best for them.
Although it is important to talk about these issues, there was one thing that bothered me about the book. Let me explain.
When I read I like to get to know the characters so when things happen to them I feel for them. This was not the case with Crenshaw. In fact, Crenshaw himself was actually dull. Sure there was a little bit of back story but it did not give me the warm fuzzies I expected to have with the character. I also didn't get too attached to Jackson. Why did he stop having a good enough imagination to produce Crenshaw and then develop this affinity and obsession with factual evidence? What made this happen.
Other than that, I enjoyed this little story and admire Applegate to write about those who are often ignored in society.
4th Grade and up.