CRENSHAW for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

This book has been on my TBR pile for several months, added there after reading reviews by two other MMGM bloggers (Ms. Yingling Reads and Andrea Mack). Removing this book not only lowered my future read count but also helped me with another problem.

When avid readers are moving from chapter books to MG, the jump can be brutal if they choose the wrong one. I’ve read many MG books this past year in the 60,000 plus word range with reading levels approaching sixth grade. It’s like going from an easy water slide to the steep monsters at the water park. Many turn around before making it to the top.

CRENSHAW helps to bridge the journey. Short chapters, a lower reading level, and an invisible 51ffwVD0FeL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_cat will win over many of those 3rd graders making the leap. Older kids (6th grade and up) maybe not. This story about a family teetering on homelessness is one that will touch your heart and give you understanding to those standing on the side of the road with a cardboard sign saying, “Help.”

At its core CRENSHAW is a story about the struggle this family has gone through and efforts by the parents to keep as much of the reasons away from their oldest, Jackson. He narrates the tale and although it is also about his former invisible friend, a large cat named Crenshaw, I appreciated the family story better. The cat is a great hook though for young readers.


FULL PLOT (From AMAZON) In 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?


  1. The honest heart wrenching narration by Jackson. His thoughts bring meaning to the plight of a family in need.
  2. Although this is a tough subject to address in the right way for young readers, the author does a great job of keeping a balance. Eight year old’s would be concerned but not traumatized by the events in this family’s story.
  3. Despite the troubles this family has endured, it was nice to see them care so much about each other. That’s what a loving family is all about.
  4. With its short chapters we have a great read-aloud book and one that could be a springboard for a discussion about homelessness.
  5. The cover! The purple color is a part of the story and the image just screams to be picked up and explored.

FAVORITE LINES: Here’s the thing: I am not an imaginary friend kind of guy. Seriously. This fall I go into fifth grade. At my age, it’s not good to have a reputation for being crazy.


Did you know…

  • Nearly one in five kids in America lives in a household that struggles to put food on the table.
  • Three out of five K–8 public school teachers say they regularly see students come to school hungry.
  • Teachers of hungry kids spend, on average, about $37 of their own money each month to buy food for students.

See how you can help at  Katherine’s author website.


Make a comment if you have time. I enjoy reading all of them. Just click on the Comments word below.

Check the links to other Middle Grade novels over at Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.


About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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13 Responses to CRENSHAW for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday

  1. Sounds like an intense story in a good way. And it’s good that the chapters are short for kids who are challenged by longer ones.

  2. msyingling says:

    I wish this one did NOT have the cat. It’s probably better for younger readers, but I thought it had an important story that the cat didn’t really help. Love Applegate, though!

  3. Andrea says:

    Thanks for mentioning my review! I liked this one, including the cat, even though I thought I might not when I first signed it out.

  4. I keep seeing reviews of this book and have wanted to read it. It’s hard to find good books dealing with homelessness. And, I think it is important for kids because they see kids at school who are homeless and they see the homeless on the streets. Kids are compassionate and there are so many ways to work with this topic with kids, especially in the classroom. Like your resource. Great review!

  5. tythesloth says:

    This is on my TBR list, too! I see I should move it up a bit. Great review! 🙂

  6. I just added this to my TBR list with a star. I will try to get to it soon. Thanks for the review.

  7. Suzanne Warr says:

    Your review plus the comments have left me determined to pick it up, so thanks for that! I’m curious now what I’ll think of the cat, since often the only way I can bring myself around to reading a book like this is if it feels like there’s an element of hope, and my guess is the cat brings in that element. But, I’ll know better after I read. 😀

    Awesome review, as always, and happy to be back to MMGM!

  8. cleemckenzie says:

    I took a look at this one at Christmas, but it was too young for my gang. It does sound charming and it looks quite captivating for those readers making that change from one level to the next.

  9. Joanne Fritz says:

    I read this a couple of months ago and while I enjoyed it and found it an important read (for the homelessness, mainly), I didn’t love it in the same way I loved THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, one of my all-time favorites.

  10. This is on my TBR, as well. On the young side for my high school, but will be getting and reading it for myself.

  11. Cindy Tran says:

    Love the new look, Greg! I think this sounds like a wonderful read and have been trying to get this one at my library. Thanks for the review!

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