Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

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I had a treat this past weekend – I got to read an advanced copy of Katherine Applegate’s new middle grade novel, Crenshaw. The cover is reminiscent of her Newbery-winning novel, The One and Only Ivan, another beautifully written poignant story that reminded me how much I love books that make me sad and happy at the same time.

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Crenshaw is the story of a boy named Jackson and a large, athletically gifted – and imaginary –  cat named Crenshaw. This is how it opens:

I noticed several weird things about the surfboarding cat.

Thing number one: He was a surfboarding cat.

Thing number two: He was wearing a T-shirt. It said CATS RULE, DOGS DROOL.

Thing number three: He was holding a closed umbrella, like he was worried about getting wet. Which, when you think about it, is kind of not the point of surfing.”

Jackson and his family are in a tough situation. His parents don’t have enough money to continue paying rent or anything else. His father has multiple sclerosis. Jackson remembers the first time, a few years earlier, that his family had to live in their minivan and they may have to return to life on the road. Crenshaw is an imaginary cat who shows up when Jackson needs him. He takes bubble baths and is generally awesome.

As I write this short review, I’m appreciating Applegate’s story even more than when I read it. I’m thinking about how few books there are about kids facing financial insecurity and about how much family and friends (real or imaginary) can help us navigate our way through hard times. Crenshaw is a book (and a cat) that opens hearts and reminds us that many children spend their days worried about things completely out of their control.

Crenshaw should be added to your fall reading list – publication date is September 22!

On a completely different note, two things that made me smile last week:

I saw this in one of our lower elementary classrooms. Kind of an awesome book project, isn’t it?

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And taking a walk one day, I saw two of these little marshmallow-shaped creatures in random spots. They made me smile, as I’m sure they did everyone else who noticed them!

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