Here is yet another book that has received good reviews this year. Jackson lives with his mother, father, and younger sister in a small apartment. His mother works two jobs, but his father struggles with health problems which make it difficult for him to hold a job. Jackson starts to worry when his parents gather up all their belongings for a yard sale. He is afraid they will once again be homeless like they were for nearly a year when he was younger. As he worries about what might be coming, his imaginary friend, a giant cat named Crenshaw, starts visiting him like he did when he was little. Jackson knows he is too old to have an imaginary friend, but maybe Crenshaw is just what Jackson needs to get through the hard times.
The theme of imaginary friends has been a popular one in the past couple of years. The Adventures of Beekle, which won the Caldecott last year was about an imaginary friend. I must admit that seeing an imaginary friend, like the one portrayed in this book, sounds a lot like serious mental illness to me. That said, it was a cute book, and the characters of Jackson and all his family were very well developed and sympathetic. The book portrays an authentic child's view of what it is like to be homeless and hungry, but by setting the homelessness in the past, Applegate keeps it from being too scary and overwhelming for a young reader. This one might be a real Newbery contender. (245 p.)