Contrary to the impression given by the title and cover art, Crenshaw is not a fantasy novel about a cat. It really has very little to do with the character, Crenshaw, and everything to do the protagonist, Jackson, and his quite real, contemporary life. This novel focuses on the harsh realities of living on the economic edge and the stress it puts on children. Crenshaw is a way to cope with that harshness–both for Jackson and for the reader. Crenshaw makes the tough topics accessible to its young, target audience. Most middle grade readers don’t naturally gravitate towards these books, but they are important for developing sympathy and broadening our view of the world. This book would be excellent for guided discussions–either with a parent or a teacher. The writing is solid, and the characters have just the right amount of quirkiness without slipping into the unbelievable.
For a list of other middle grade titles that look at real-life, tough situations for kids visit our post Best Middle Grade Books About Kids with Challenges. For an absolutely brilliant book about imaginary friends that is fantasy, I suggest The Imaginary, which was published this spring.
Review of the audio version of the book. (Note: The reader was neither amazing nor annoying.)
Violence/Gore: Report of an animal getting sick; girl character punches boy character playfully.
Mature Subject Matter:
Poverty, homelessness, economic distress, lying, shoplifting, personal crisis.
Alcohol / Drug Use: