by Katherine Applegate (2015)
An Intermediate title.
Also available in Spanish.
“If you ever have to live in your car, you are going to have some problems with feet…
Stinky dad feet.
The Magic Marker smell of nail polish on your mom’s toes because she says she still wants to look nice so please just deal with it.
Sister feet kicking you just as you’re falling asleep.
The scratchy surprise of dog feet trying to wake you up.
Imaginary friend feet tiptoeing on your head.”
That’s how the masterful Katherine Applegate introduces what is sure to be a challenging subject for a children’s book – homelessness.
In the past, Jackson and his family lived in the family van for 14 weeks before moving into an apartment. Now they are facing homelessness again. And though both his parents are loving and supportive, Jackson is naturally worried.
Which is where Crenshaw comes in. Crenshaw is a large, imaginary, talking cat who likes purple jellybeans – just like Jackson. Can Crenshaw magically solve all the problems in Jack’s complicated life? No. Can Crenshaw provide unexpected support, and ask sassy, challenging questions that help Jackson think differently about the life-isn’t-always-fair nature of his childhood? He surely can.
This is Katherine Applegate’s special genius. The stinky feet passage tells you that this book is not going to be a sad, maudlin affair you wouldn’t think of sharing with kids. Instead, it’s going to be funny and sad and wise. There is magic and wisdom in real life, and imaginary Crenshaw helps Jackson see it. Just as Katherine Applegate helps us see it, too.
Readers will also be drawn in by Jackson’s relationship with a new friend, Marisol. She doesn’t want Jackson to have to leave the neighborhood. And she challenges Jackson to look at life differently, just like Crenshaw. Jackson likes facts. They help him see the world as sound and safe and manageable. Marisol is more imaginative, and she knows that imagination will help Jackson see beyond the scary facts of right now. She helps him appreciate the magic of not knowing, of believing.
We all need to appreciate the magic.
Katherine Applegate is the author of two popular Read to Them titles – The One and Only Ivan and Wishtree, books that also deal with big topics in a sensitive, authentic way that respects hyoung readers. We invite you to read and share Crenshaw with your school community. You can help them all discover the magic.