Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, 2015
From the dust jacket: “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?
“Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary.”
When I decided to read this book, I knew it was about a cat and homelessness. I figured it would be sad (and I hate reading sad books). But I didn’t figure on it being sweet, and gentle, and so thought-provoking. It speaks to the amazing resilience of kids who are in tough, out-of-their-control situations and what they will do to survive – like creating a human-sized cat who talks, does handstands, and takes bubble baths. Crenshaw is Jackson’s way of coping with an intolerable situation; he is Jackson’s wiser self, offering advice, comfort and encouragement.
This is a small book, but only in size. It has 230 pages but it’s for elementary aged children so the print is large and a quick read (I read it in about 2.5 hours). Small in size but large in its message. And the message is that of homelessness. Of families being homeless. Of children coping with homelessness.
Jackson makes this comment, “I guess becoming homeless doesn’t happen all at once. My mom told me once that money problems sort of sneak up on you. … Maybe we didn’t become homeless overnight. But that’s what it felt like. I was finishing first grade. My dad had been sick. My mom had lost her teaching job. And all of a sudden—bam—we weren’t living in a nice house with a swing set in the backyard anymore.”
If that doesn’t stop you and make you think “Wow! That could happen to me!”, what will? Homelessness is a difficult subject to deal with but this book handles it with dignity and compassion. Crenshaw may be written for children, but it is so well-written and profound, adults will benefit from reading it as well. It doesn’t have an ‘and they lived happily ever after’ ending but it does end with hope for the future. And that’s all anyone can ask for, is hope for the future.
Rating 5 out 5 paws for the simple, yet perceptive way the author wrote Jackson’s story.