by Katherine Applegate

Readers Theater

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Related Activities & Resources:

Katherine Applegate Author Twitter:

Crenshaw Book Trailer (1:39):

Interview with Katherine Applegate about the Crenshaw cover:

Crenshaw – MacKids Books:

Interview with Katherine Applegate:

Exclusive Cover Reveal + Guest Post:

Time for Kids Interview – A Larger Than Life Best Friend:

Fact Site for Kids:

14 Children’s Picture Books About Homelessness:

How to Talk with Your Kids about Homelessness:

Have your school counselor share laws and other strategies put in place to help homeless students. McKinney Vento Act

Contact a local homeless shelter to come and visit with your students.

Find out what a local shelter needs and do a drive to help with those needs.

Discussion Questions:

Why do you think Crenshaw returned to Jackson when he did?

If you had to put all of your keepsakes in a bag, what would you put in the bag?

Do you do anything to take your mind off of “problems” like play cereal ball?

Why do you think it took Jackson so long to tell his parents how he really felt?

Why is Marisol such an important friend to Jackson?

What did you learn about homelessness from the book?

What could you do to help homeless people in your area?

Book Talk Teasers:

Read the front cover flap.

Talk about imaginary friends:
Why do some people have them?
Is it ok to have an imaginary friend?
If you had an imaginary friend what would you want them to be like?

Discuss the homeless statistics in your area or school.


Read Alikes:

Family Situations:
Balliett, Blue. Hold Fast. On a cold winter day in Chicago, Early’s father disappeared, and now she, her mother and her brother have been forced to flee their apartment and join the ranks of the homeless–and it is up to Early to hold her family together and solve the mystery surrounding her father. (NoveList)

Bauer, Joan. Almost Home. Sixth-grader Sugar and her mother lose their beloved house and experience the harsh world of homelessness. (NoveList)

Revell, Mike. Stonebird. Liam’s family moves to be near his grandmother who is suffering from dementia, and while Liam is learning to navigate a new school and new neighborhood he meets a gargoyle that can come to life and act out the stories that Liam imagines. (NoveList)

Hickey, Caroline. Cassie Was Here. After moving to a new neighborhood, eleven-year-old Bree’s long-forgotten imaginary playmate returns, to the dismay of her parents and brother, but the only other girl on the street is thirteen-year-old Cassie, whose behavior may lead to big trouble. (NoveList)

Gephart, Donna. Death by toilet paper. Contest-crazed twelve-year-old Ben uses his wits and way with words in hopes of winning a prize that will keep his family from being evicted until his mother can pass her final CPA examination. (NoveList)

DiCamillo, Kate. Flora & Ulysses. Rescuing a squirrel after an accident involving a vacuum cleaner, comic-reading cynic Flora Belle Buckman is astonished when the squirrel, Ulysses, demonstrates astonishing powers of strength and flight after being revived. (NoveList)

Babbitt, Natalie. Tuck everlasting. A family accidentally stumbles upon a spring with water endowing them with the gift of eternal life. Seventy years later, without having grown a day older, a young girl discovers them and learns their secret. (NoveList)

Kuhlman, Evan. The Last Invisible Boy. In the wake of his father’s sudden death, twelve-year-old Finn feels he is becoming invisible as his hair and skin become whiter by the day, and so he writes and illustrates a book to try to understand what is happening and to hold on to himself and his father. (NoveList)

Norriss, Andrew. Friends for Life.  Francis Meredith is a boy who is interested in fashion and costuming, which has made him a target at school, but when he meets Jessica and Andi his life begins to change–Andi is an athletic girl with a reputation for fighting and family in the fashion business, and Jessica is a ghost who has no idea how she died. (NoveList)

O’Connor, Barbara. How to Steal a Dog. Living in the family car in their small North Carolina town after their father leaves them virtually penniless, Georgina, desperate to improve their situation and unwilling to accept her overworked mother’s calls for patience, persuades her younger brother to help her in an elaborate scheme to get money by stealing a dog and then claiming the reward that the owners are bound to offer. (NoveList)

Rocklin, Joanne. Fleabrain Loves Granny.  This middle-grade novel takes place in Pittsburgh in 1952-53. The protagonist is Franny, a young girl of imagination, curiosity, and stubbornness. While recovering from polio, she begins a correspondence with a flea named Fleabrain. (Novelist)

Imaginary Friends:
Cuevas, Michelle. Confessions of an Imaginary Friend: a Memoir by Jacques Papier. When Jacques Papier discovers he’s imaginary, he sets off on a journey to find his true home. (NoveList)

Santat, Dan. The Adventures of Beekle: the Unimaginary Friend. An imaginary friend waits a long time to be imagined by a child and given a special name, and finally does the unimaginable–he sets out on a quest to find his perfect match in the real world. (NoveList)

Hanlon, Abby. Dory Fantasmagory. Dory, the youngest in her family, is a girl with a very active imagination, and she spends the summer playing with her imaginary friend, pretending to be a dog, battling monsters, and generally driving her family nuts. (NoveList)

Hanlon, Abby. Dory and the real true friend. Dory, a highly imaginative youngest child, makes a new friend at school but her brother and sister are sure Rosabelle is imaginary, just like all of Dory’s other friends. (NoveList)

Harrold, A.F. The Imaginary. Rudger, an imaginary playmate, must find his friend Amanda before he fades away to nothing, while eluding the only other person who can see him, evil Mr. Bunting, who hunts–and possibly even eats–imaginaries. (NoveList)

O’Dowd, Chris. Moone Boy: the Blunder Years. Martin Moone is eleven and completely fed up with being the only boy in a family of girls. He’s desperate for a decent wingman to help him navigate his idiotic life. So when best mate Patraic suggests Martin get an imaginary friend–or “IF” for short–he decides to give it a go. (NoveList)

Martin, Patricia. Lulu Atlantis and the Quest for True Blue Love. Lulu Atlantis is peeved when her mother brings home little brother Sam, and she turns to her imaginary friend, Harry the daddy long-legs spider, for comfort, companionship, help, and advice as she is getting used to the addition to the family. (NoveList)

Books by Katherine Applegate:
Applegate, Katherine. The One and Only Ivan. When Ivan, a gorilla who has lived for years in a down-and-out circus-themed mall, meets Ruby, a baby elephant that has been added to the mall, he decides that he must find her a better life. (NoveList)

Applegate, Katherine. Home of the Brave. Kek, an African refugee, is confronted by many strange things at the Minneapolis home of his aunt and cousin, as well as in his fifth grade classroom, and longs for his missing mother… (NoveList)

Book Reviews:

By Katherine Applegate.
2015. 256p. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 (9781250043238). Gr. 3–6.
First published September 1, 2015 (Booklist).

Soon-to-be fifth-grader Jackson goes for facts and science—things that are real and true—and having a giant, talking cat around doesn’t fit the bill. It has been years since his imaginary feline friend Crenshaw was on the scene, and Jackson can’t figure out why he is back or how to make him go away. It soon becomes apparent that all is not well in Jackson’s home. Though he has a loving family, money is tight. Jackson can’t help remembering back to when they had to live in a minivan—that was when he first met Crenshaw—and he fears that might happen once again. Newbery winner Applegate (The One and Only Ivan, 2012) uses gentle humor, embodied by Crenshaw, to explore the topic of homelessness. Jackson’s anxiety is central to the narrative, and his concerns will resonate with readers who have been in stressful situations. Though the story is weighty, it is a quick read that encourages people of all ages to be honest with one another and value family and friends (real and imaginary!).Julia Smith

Horn Book:
by Katherine Applegate
Intermediate     Feiwel     243 pp.
9/15    978-1-250-04323-8     $16.99     g
e-book ed. 978-1-250-08022-6     $9.99

Jackson is a scientist, a skeptic, and nobody’s fool. He’s the resilient fifth-grader (the “most grown-up one in the house”) in a dreamy, overwhelmed family that has fallen on hard times. But sometimes even the hyper-competent need help, and when Jackson’s family faces homelessness once more, his former imaginary friend, a giant cat named Crenshaw who’s visible only to Jackson, makes a reappearance. Crenshaw is neither cute nor obviously supportive. He takes bubble baths, constantly asks for purple jelly beans, and makes gnomic pronouncements (“You need to tell the truth, my friend…To the person who matters most of all”). Jackson tries to banish him, but Crenshaw insists that he has been summoned. Applegate walks a tightrope through this whole robustly sweet narrative. Crenshaw is both real and imaginary. Jackson’s family is loving, optimistic, and functional in its way, but the tenuousness of the family’s situation and Jackson’s lack of control over his own fate are stressful. “Were we going to have enough to eat tomorrow?…Were we going to be able to pay the rent?…Would I go to the same school in the fall?…Would it [homelessness] happen again?” The tone is warm and, occasionally, quirkily funny, but it doesn’t sugarcoat the effects of hunger and vulnerability. This novel adds a middle-grade perspective to the literature of imaginary friends and paints a convincing and compassionate portrait of a social class—the working poor—underrepresented in children’s books. SARAH ELLIS (September/October 2015 Horn Book Magazine)

School Library Journal:
Gr 4–6—In her first novel since the Newbery-winning The One and Only Ivan (HarperCollins, 2012), Applegate tells the story of a 10-year-old boy whose imaginary friend helps him cope with a family crisis. Jackson, his parents, and his five-year-old sister once again are staring down the barrel of an impending eviction notice. What frustrates Jackson isn’t just the lack of money: it’s his artistically minded parents’ tendency to gloss over their woes with humor and cheer rather than acknowledging the reality of their situation. It’s understandably a shock to Jackson when an old friend reappears: Crenshaw, a seven-foot-tall talking cat, who first came into his life several years ago when the boy and his family were living out of their car shortly after his father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Skeptical Jackson tries to dismiss Crenshaw as a figment of his imagination, but the cat’s words of wisdom start to resonate with him. Employing sparse but elegant prose, Applegate has crafted an authentic protagonist whose self-possession and maturity conceal relatable vulnerability and fears. While sardonic Crenshaw may not be the warm and cuddly imaginary friend readers are expecting, he’s the companion that Jackson truly needs as he begins to realize that he doesn’t need to carry the weight of the world upon his shoulders. Though the ending wraps up a shade too neatly, overall, children will appreciate this heartbreaking novel. VERDICT A compelling and unflinchingly honest treatment of a difficult topic.—Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Applegate, Katherine. Crenshaw. Feiwel and Friends / Macmillan, 2015. hb 9781250143238

Rising fifth-grader Jackson prefers fact to fancy, so he’s alarmed when he sees an oversized talking cat, which is invisible to everyone else. Jackson recognizes the feline as the long-lost imaginary pal he once dubbed Crenshaw, who previously appeared when Jackson’s family briefly became homeless and lived in their van. Along with Crenshaw’s appearance there are other signs that the family is headed for trouble again: Jackson’s multiple sclerosis–stricken father and his mother sell many of the family’s possessions, and there is less and less food in the cupboards. Crenshaw begins to be a source of comfort and guidance, especially when the cat urges Jackson to ask his parents about their situation. Jackson’s family situation highlights the ways in which families can be one diagnosis or job cut away from financial and emotional heartbreak; the hopeful but realistic resolution (Dad finds part-time work and the family finds temporary housing arrangement) gives readers enough of a happy ending to satisfy while still remaining credible. Unfortunately, the character of Crenshaw, while original, never gets past being a gimmick; his relentlessly larger-than-life persona wears thin in the face of Jackson’s serious problems and sometimes jarringly interrupts the flow of the story’s arc. Still, the imaginary-friend concept and mysterious big cat on the book’s cover might draw readers into the story, and those who stick with it may gain a new perspective on hardship. Review code: Ad – Additional. Gr. 4-6. Jeannette Hulick (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, December 2015 (Vol. 69, No. 3))