Katherine Applegate’s newest novel, Crenshaw, revels in duality. The story follows the first person perspective of Jackson, the summer before he enters fifth grade. His parents have fallen on tough times financially. They don’t have enough money to pay rent, there isn’t much food around, and Jackson is afraid his family will lose their apartment and have to live in their minivan. But even more troubling to Jackson, is the re-appearance of Crenshaw—the giant, charismatic cat who enjoys surfing, eating purple jellybeans, taking bubble baths, and who is also completely imaginary.
Jackson likes facts; he’s a child that his parents deem too “adult” for his age. Despite the fact that Crenshaw is Jackson’s imaginary friend, he is as real as any character in the novel, making for the perfect foil to stubborn Jackson and his need to uncover the harsh realities his family is facing. Crenshaw’s personality and dialogue are dramatic and over the top, serving as an excellent opportunity to bring an element of absurd humor against the very real problems in Jackson’s life.
Highly anticipated as Applegate’s newest publication since the debut of her 2013 Newbery Medal-Winning novel, The One and Only Ivan, Crenshaw demonstrates Applegate’s ability to weave wit and imagination through a darkly resonant narrative. Applegate delivers a powerful and emotional force to rival Ivan, while further securing her place as an important voice in contemporary children’s literature.
Reviewed by: Erin Koehler