Synopsis (From GoodReads):In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.
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?
Review:I love my library, especially the audio book section. I can download books to my phone and listen to them as I do housework, cook, or drive around in the car. So when I saw that this book was available I thought I would give it a try.
The book is about a young boy who is dealing with very grown-up problems. His family is struggling to stay afloat. They had been homeless once, living in their car for several months. Now they may need to do it again. Jackson begins to see his old imaginary friend, Crenshaw, and wonders if he is going insane. How could he need a crutch like an imaginary friend?
Even though this story is aimed at middle grade readers, it spoke to me in so many ways. As a kid, my family was always one step away from financial disaster. I have vivid memories of my parents telling us that our belongings would be taken away. We didn't need all this stuff anyway, right? It would be just like camping. We were not fooled. We saw the bill collectors yelling at my mom. We sometimes went to bed without enough to eat. The uncertainty of knowing something bad was happening, and our parents not being honest about it, is what I remember the most. This novel captures what those feelings are like for Jackson and his sister, Robin.
This story deals with hard truths that most middle grade readers know nothing about. It is not preachy, but does show a side of life that may by unimaginable to kids. I think it is well written and uses the imaginary friend, Crenshaw, to show how stressful this situation is on kids.
It also shows how parents can be so reluctant to ask for help in these circumstances. As Jackson says, homelessness is like a cold. It doesn't come on all of the sudden. It gradually creeps up on you as you get behind on your bills, you have a health problem that means you can't work, or you get laid off from your job. Then you can't make your rent, and you get evicted. Now that I am older and a parent myself, I can understand how mortifying it would be to go to a homeless shelter, or a food bank. It would be a bitter pill to swallow to have to need such assistance. This book does not judge the parents, but shows how challenging it is to be living paycheck to paycheck.
The only criticism I have of this audio book is that the producer should have hired a younger performer to read this book. The narrator, Kirby Heyborne, is a young man who I have enjoyed listening to on other audio books such as All The Bright Places. But the story is about an eleven year old boy. It would have a much bigger emotional impact if the narration matched the story.
I hope that many young readers will pick up this book. It has enough whimsy to keep it entertaining while helping kids understand what some of their peers may be going through.
Release Date: September 22nd, 2015
Source: Public Library
Format: Audio book
Recommendation: For middle grade readers and up. This is not a book for very young children. But it will be thought-provoking and spark conversations about poverty and it's challenges.