Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Crenshaw - Katherine Applegate

You know that old saying "don't judge a book by it's cover"?  Think again, for in this case what a cover!  And inside, what a wonderful book!  I saw the cover first, and had to have it.  Applegate won the (US) Newbery Medal for her previous book The One and Only Ivan, which looked fun but didn't appeal.  But to have an invisible friend, a large cat called Crenshaw..... now that did appeal.  I think anyone of 8+ will enjoy this read, or having it read it them.
Crenshaw appears early on, riding a surfboard until he opens his umbrella and the wind lifts him off the board and brings him down to Jackson who is on the beach.  This is Crenshaw's second time round in Jackson's life..... at a time when he thinks he's far too old for an invisible friend, and in any case there are a lot of problems at home and he really has no time for this furry interloper.  
Jackson's family are what are described as working poor - never quite enough money to pay the rent on time, never quite enough to eat well on a daily basis.  And when the notice to quit arrives, Jackson is beside himself, for he's had to go through this once before, when his sister was a baby, sleeping in the family van for fourteen weeks;  and although he just cannot do it again, it looks as though he is going to have to.  Crenshaw's answer to this?  "Just tell the truth".  What on earth does that mean?
I was astounded by some facts and figures at the back of the book.  One in five  kids in the US are "food insecure" as policy makers might describe them.  I will take a guess and say that there are plenty of the same here in the UK, although I don't know that the figure is as high here.  Whatever the figure is, no child should be hungry - anywhere.  But they are.  Just think about the Middle East for a little while, then think about your home town.  Then think about the "celebrity culture".  The space between rich and poor gets ever wider.   After Katherine Applegate won the Newbery Medal, she visited lots of schools, and met kids like Jackson.  That's when she decided to write Crenshaw.  Buy it, borrow it - but do read it.  You will laugh at Crenshaw, but your heart will cry for Jackson and his family.... although with Crenshaw's help they just may get by.

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