Review: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate (InfoSoup)

Jackson knows that it’s all about to happen again. His family is having a garage sale for a lot of their stuff, allowing Jackson and his little sister to just pick one bag of items to keep. There just isn’t enough money for rent and Jackson feels hungry a lot of the time. His father doesn’t want to ask for assistance, preferring to find a way through on their own. When Jackson was younger, the family had lived in their minivan for awhile and now Jackson sees the same signs as before. When they lived in their car, Jackson met his imaginary friend, Crenshaw. Now even though Jackson is older, Crenshaw is back and bigger than ever. Crenshaw is a huge cat with a deep purr, who tells Jackson that he is there to help and encourages Jackson to just tell the truth. As Jackson’s world gets more complicated though, how in the world can an imaginary friend make a difference?

This is Applegate’s first novel for children since winning the Newbery Medal for The One and Only Ivan. Applegate imbues this new book with a shining magic of imagination. She keeps the wonder of Crenshaw real on many levels, not only for Jackson himself but also creating moments where readers will know that Crenshaw is much more than imaginary. This luminous touch keeps the entire book dazzling for readers.

It is even more important given the issues that the book explores. Family poverty and homelessness are critical in our world today and so few books tell that story from the point of view of a child experiencing it. Applegate keeps the story real here, focusing on the impact of being hungry, on the fear that being homeless generates in a child. She also makes Jackson a real hero. A child facing immense problems who, with the help of his imaginary friend, manages to tell his parents what this kind of life does to him. It is powerful, heart wrenching and true.

An important book that mixes an imaginary friend with the harsh reality of homelessness, this is a top pick for young readers. Appropriate for ages 7-11.

Reviewed from copy received from Feiwel & Friends.

Review: Robo-Sauce by Adam Rubin

Robo Sauce by Adam Rubin

Robo-Sauce by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri (InfoSoup)

Everyone knows how cool playing robots is! Except sometimes your family doesn’t think it’s quite as cool as you do. So what if someone offered you a magic and scientific potion that would let you play robot in a new way? Would you make it? Well, the boy in the book does and turns into a giant robot. But even then, none of the humans want to play with him. But the boy has a solution, more sauce! Very quickly, the story goes out of control as robo-sauce makes its way through the entire book, transforming everyone into robots. Readers can even change the book itself into a robot theme.

The collaborators of Dragons Love Tacos return with this striking robot-themed picture book. Rubin has created an adult narrator who sets things into motion by providing the robo-sauce recipe. The book feels traditional and readers will be fooled into thinking that the boy will soon realize that he doesn’t want to be a robot but a real boy. Happily, the book takes an unexpected twist and becomes something altogether different. The narrator is along to voice their objections to the changes, making it all the more delightful.

The art by Salmieri is done in subtle colors except for the robot lights and sauce which are a vivid neon orange. They are friendly and cartoon-like, filling the book with a sense of merriment. Even the transformation into a robot is a grand adventure filled with wild noises. When the book transforms into a robot book, the pages have already been doused in neon sauce and the pages have a completely different feeling about them. Very cleverly designed, this picture book embraces transformation at a whole new level.

A great read-aloud, this robot picture book will transform your story time! Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.