Friday, September 11, 2015


Title: Crenshaw 
Author: Katherine Applegate 
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends 
Publication Date: September 22nd, 2015 
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel 
GoodReads Summary: In her first novel since winning 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?
Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary. 
What I Think: As soon as I got home from Nerdcamp, I wanted to read this with Peanut right away. I read it aloud to him and we spent time thinking through the story and what was happening. He loves The One and Only Ivan and was captured by Crenshaw right away but the abstractness of Crenshaw himself made it a little more difficult to process. But Katherine Applegate does an amazing job of bringing the characters to life and allowing readers to connect with them by so carefully telling their story. I started to grab my favorite snatches of text and had to stop because there are just so many wonderful words in this story. Katherine's words just pack so much punch. They are powerful.
     I led a session on descriptive writing in non-fiction this summer at Nerdcamp. I shared one of my favorite NPR segments by Frank Deford called "Don't Overlook The Unsung Umpire; Referees Can Be Pretty, Too". His description is remarkable and listening to him read his words truly brings strong images to mind. The power of descriptive writing is that it allows readers to visualize and feel as though they are there in the moment, seeing what the author sees, feeling what the author or character feels. Stopping to marvel at amazing writing is a great opportunity invite students to look at writing that moves them and to notice what the author is doing. I would take time to stop and relish in Katherine's words while reading Crenshaw while at the same time thinking about the characters, making connections and inferring how they might be feeling. Crenshaw is a book that I love, but this can be done with any text - even any sentence - that you like from something you have read. But Katherine has a knack for describing how characters are feeling and helping you truly feel what they feel so I would zone in on that with Crenshaw.
     I'm thrilled that our local independent bookstore is participating in the Crenshaw Nationwide Food Drive. Reading about a main character who was homeless and may be homeless again really helped my kids to think through what this might be like. They asked lots of great questions that showed me how much they were processing Jackson's life and his story. I'm happy to see Katherine bring attention to homelessness in our country. It's a good reminder to everyone that we might not know someone's story and that it's important to try and learn more about what people meet have dealt with or are dealing with and to show compassion by doing so. I believe that in telling our stories and listening to others' stories, we are better able to work together and accomplish more.
Read Together: Grades 2 - 6 
Read Alone: Grades 3 - 7 
Read With: Yard Sale by Eve Bunting with illustrations by Lauren Castillo, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson with illustrations by E.B. Lewis, Hope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, Paperboy by Vince Vawter 
Snatch of Text: 
     "It was late June, nice and warm, but I shivered.
     I felt the way you do the instant before you leap into the deep end of a pool.
     You're on your way to somewhere else. You're not there yet. But you know there's no turning back." (p. 5)

     "Maybe that's why I liked the name Crenshaw. It felt like a blank piece of paper before you draw on it.
     It was an anything-is-possible kind of name." (p. 27)

     "The sun was beginning to set. The sky was tiger-colored, with stripes of black clouds." (p. 36)

     "'There's no such thing as magic,' I said.
     'Music is magic,' said my mom.
     'Love is magic,' said my dad.
     'Rabbits in a hat are magic,' said Robin.
     'I would put Krispy Kreme donuts in the magic category,' said my dad.
     'How about the smell of a new baby?' asked my mom.
     'Kitties are magic!' Robin yelled.
     'Indeed,' said my dad, scratching Aretha's ear, 'And don't forget dogs.'" (p. 38)     

Writing Prompts: Write about something you would want to know the truth about. Even if it would be hard to know or hard to deal with, something that you would rather know about than not. 
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Perseverance, Courage, Determination, Growing Up, Adversity 
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