Crenshaw is a not-the-usual middle grade story that follows the story of Jackson as he and his family try to avoid homelessness.
9-year-old Jackson lives in a household where the fear of being evicted at the house that they rent and hunger is something that you should get used to. It has been years since they became homeless and now that they’re facing eviction again, he wants to be the son that his parents could lean upon and not the baby boy whom they are afraid to tell the truth from. He wants the people around him to realize that he wants to know the reality behind their situation. Jackson wants them to understand that he understands their situation and that there’s no needs for his parents to deny him of the facts about their financial situation that he should know.
His father who once worked as a construction worker now spends most of his time at home doing part time jobs after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. His mother who once was a music teacher, now juggles three part-time jobs to make ends meet after her former job got dissolved. But when added, it is not still enough. The possibility of becoming homeless became apparent when his parents started telling him and his sister to sort that things they want to keep and those that they no longer need for a yard sale. Jackson began thinking that there’s a possibility that he won’t be going to school next year and a possibility that he won’t be again seeing his only friend, Marisol, whom he shares the same dreams of becoming a scientist someday. Those uncertainties weighs so hard on him and he wants his parents to be aware of it but he’s having this dilemma of telling it to them.
Aside from his problems at home, he also has to deal with his problem of whether this giant cat that appears every now and then is just a product of his imagination or not. Jackson is a smart boy who always rely on facts and so when he begins seeing a a giant cat, he’s not sure what to think. Crenshaw, the name he gave to the cat, first appeared when he was 5 years old during the time that they first lived in their minivan for a couple of months due to financial reasons. Crenshaw appeared as a friend who provided distraction to him during those trying times. This time, has Crenshaw returned to help him again? Or is he just losing his mind and imagining things? He wants Crenshaw to go away because he hates it when he doubts his own self but he needs to mean it when he says so. Crenshaw is back because Jackson needs him again.
Jackson’s sincere love for his family, especially to his sister, is very imminent in the story. He wants for his parents to share with him their struggles which, if one may think, is so mature for his age. He wants to protect sister from the harsh realities that they are facing. He’s character is portrayed in the story as a character that is wiser than his age. The author was able to create believable characters, even Crenshaw who was supposed to be imaginary.
This is the second book that I read from Katherine Applegate, the first being One and Only Ivan. I like how she discuss important topics in her novels but not in a way that is too depressing perfectly fitted to its intended audience. She ends each with not much of a conclusion but with an ending that is is hopeful. In One and Only Ivan, she discussed about animal abuse and in this one, she discussed homelessness. The issue of being homeless is not new nowadays but very seldom used as a theme. The way she writes this book is so on point and elaborate in a way that will help readers understand the feeling of being one.
The story was told thru the perspective of Jackson which allowed me to feel the raw emotions of the book. It made the story more personal. Going into it, I was able to feel the honesty of every line and every word thru the eyes of a 9 year old boy. I was able to feel Jackson’s thirst for someone to talk to and hold on to when all else seems to crumble in front of him. He tried asking his parents but all he gets are answers that are either superficial and or evasive which upsets him. They are always on the positive side of everything which sometimes is good but not always specially if it seems that something is wrong. They pretend that everything is fine though it’s not. The book has a lot of emotionally heart-wrenching parts especially those between Jackson and his sister. Like how they come up with games so as to make hunger go away. Despite tackling a very serious topic, the author was able to balance it with humor that mostly came from Crenshaw.
Though marketed as a children’s middle grade book, I believe that adults can also take a thing or two from this novel as the author took a very realistic approach in explaining things. This book provides a good understanding about the effect of homelessness to people that is being affected, especially the children.
4 stars out of 5.
Author: Katherine Applegate
Part of a Series: No
Release Year: September 2015
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
No. of Pages: 256 pages
About the Author
Applegate was born in Michigan in 1956. Since then she has lived in Texas, Florida, California, Minnesota, Illinois, North Carolina, and after living in Pelago, Italy for a year, she has moved back to Southern California. She has an eleven year old son named Jake Mates, although she says the Animorph leader is not named after him. In 2003 she and her husband, Michael Grant, her co-author on many projects including Animorphs, adopted their daughter, Julia, in China. Following the end of Animorphs, Applegate took three years off. She is back at work and has written a picture book called “The Buffalo Storm,” a middle reader novel called “Home of the Brave,” and an early chapters series “Roscoe Riley Rules” with Harper Collins. Her book “Home of the Brave” has won the SCBWI Golden Kite Award, the Bank Street 2008 Josette Frank Award, and is a Judy Lopez Memorial Award honor book. (Goodreads)