Rating: High Five
Who I'd Recommend to: Fans of Ida B., Pinky Pye, A Mango-Shaped Space, Be Light Like a Bird, Odin's Promise, and Mayday.
Synopsis: 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?
Before I say anything else, understand that the synopsis for Crenshaw is a little misleading. Jackson's (the main character) imaginary friend, Crenshaw, is hardly ever in the story. Crenshaw itself is more about Jackson's struggles with poverty and possible homelessness. After finishing this book, I realized this, but I didn't really care too much, since regardless of how it turns out, Crenshaw is a stellar read. Applegate is an insanely talented author - no matter what genre she next writes in, if it's a children's book, I'll read it. The writing captures the reader right from the start and keeps you engaged throughout the entire story, while still not detracting from the emotional aspect of Crenshaw. I think I shed a few tears near the end. At the same time, Applegate writes with charm and humor, so the story isn't too dark or sad for younger or more sensitive readers. I think poverty and homelessness is a difficult subject to tackle, but Applegate handles it expertly, making this a fantastic introduction to this subject for kids. Jackson's character is wonderful as well - he's likable, smart, and most of all, completely relatable, something that I think is vital in books like this.
Overall, a beautiful book that is highly recommended to readers of all ages!