Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate is a middle grade novel that covers some tough topics. It is currently scheduled for release on September 22 2015. Jackson's family have fallen on hard times. they are struggling and having trouble making rent and keeping everyone fed. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Crenshaw is a cat, Jackson's imaginary friend that is very large, opinionated, and always appears when Jackson needs help most. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?
Crenshaw took me a bit by surprise. I was expecting more about magic than the hard life Jackson's family is facing. Dealing with medical bills, lay offs, and other financial troubles while keeping a family together is hard and sadly all to common these days. I liked that readers get a glimpse of the optimism and the pragmatic outlooks that people can take during hard times, and how family, perseverance, and truth might not make everything perfect but can certainly make dealing with troubles more manageable. Jackson is a smart boy that wants to be told the truth, and can often see the truth behind the sunny outlook adults present to him. He grows a lot through the story, learning to enjoy bits of the magic hidden in everyday life while sharing the truth he wants with those that need to hear it. This was not a fun, light read; although it had some fun moments. I think many readers will be able to relate to Jackson's outlook or situation and everyone can learn a little bit from the read.
Crenshaw tackles the truth of the hard times many families are facing, and have faced in the past. medical bills and job losses are far from new or rare, and they can bring just about any family to very hard times. I think Applegate handled the issues in a way that will foster understanding and help those facing hard times feel less alone. The addition of magic and the appreciation of the small wonders found in everyday life adds a special extra layer of meaning that will speak to many.