Updated: Mar 9
“Crenshaw” by Katherine Applegate is one of those novels that leaves you feeling just a little bit sad at the end (even though it ends happily). Hidden within its pages is a great deal of realism and truth, and I constantly wanted to jump into the story and come to the rescue of the characters. What I really wanted though, was to be the author and write a different ending for the readers. However, I believe it wasn’t Applegate’s intent to leave the book on the happiest of terms. It portrays real struggles and it ends in a similar fashion. I believe that the point of this novel was to dole out some truth and remind humanity of the need to help one another.
“Crenshaw” is a fictional story about a family that struggles to make ends meet and ends up homeless. The main character, a little boy named Jackson, gets a surprise visit from his old imaginary friend, a large talking cat named Crenshaw. Jackson isn’t necessarily ready to receive Crenshaw’s help and it takes a great deal of persuasion to convince him to open up and be truthful about his situation.
Recommended Age Group?
This novel’s main theme is about homelessness and the constant struggle some families have to contend with just to pay their bills. This isn’t an easy thing for children to understand, and like the characters in the book, they want their parents to do better, be better, and provide them with a better life.
After Crenshaw shows up unexpectedly, Jackson wonders if he’s gone crazy and whether he should tell his parents about his hallucinations. The imaginary friend theme shows up again and again, and each time Jackson battles with the idea of madness. In the end, Jackson accepts Crenshaw’s role in his life and even learns that his dad had an imaginary friend growing up. Jackson comes to understand that Crenshaw’s intention had always been to help.
The recommended age group for this novel is 8-12. However, I would recommend 9-12, as 8 seems a little young for such themes. At 8, you still think of your parents as perfect. This novel will force you to think about that idea in relation to your own parents.
This book is classroom approved. Just be aware of how it could affect your students. Applegate writes about tough themes and real struggles. Some of your students could have gone through similar hard times and it’s important to be aware of this.
All in all, just because these are tough issues to talk about, I do believe they are important issues and well worth many classroom discussions. Your students will love Crenshaw and all his silliness, and it might even get them thinking about their own imaginary friends.