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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

n her first novel since The One and Only Ivan, winner of 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? Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary.…


by Katherine Applegate

Overall Book Review:

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.)

Content Analysis:

Profanity/Language:  None

Violence/Gore:  Report of an animal getting sick; girl character punches boy character playfully.

Sex/Nudity:  None

Mature Subject Matter:

Poverty, homelessness, economic distress, lying, shoplifting, personal crisis.

Alcohol / Drug Use:


Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

An accountant and CPA by profession, I found myself a book reviewer for Squeaky Clean Reads by happenstance. When the opportunity came to transform that website into Compass Book Ratings, I was excited to seize it and meld my business background with my love of books. As the mother of three teenage sons, I have read a large number of children and young adult books and I believe that there is great value in a content review service. As much as we would love to read everything our children read, there just isn’t enough time. I also appreciate being able to select books for myself that are really worth my precious and limited reading time. I believe there is a book out there for everyone–they just have to find it!