I don’t read as much middle grade fiction as I should, and reading this book did well to drive that point home. I was torn when I stumbled upon this book, because while middle grade fiction isn’t a genre I usually read, this book was something I felt I really had to change that for. From the beautiful cover to the heartwarming story line, this book really reached out to me.
To start off, we have Jackson, who at one point in his life, had an imaginary friend named Crenshaw. Crenshaw was a little cat who could talk and loved purple jellybeans. Crenshaw came to Jackson at a time when things weren’t going so well for his family – they had to move out of their house and live in their minivan for a while, because his parents weren’t making enough money to pay the bills.
One day, Jackson stumbles upon a surfing cat with an umbrella, and while it looks like Crenshaw, Jackson decides to chalk it up to it being his imagination, and goes home. While playing a game with his sister, purple jellybeans mysteriously appear, which makes Jackson curious (since Crenshaw’s favorite jellybeans are purple). That night, Jackson hears strange noises in the bathroom while everyone is asleep – and when he investigates, he finds Crenshaw in the bathtub, taking a bubble bath.
Crenshaw is back – with intentions of helping Jackson through this difficult time (his parents are again short on money and trying to figure out how to make ends meet, and are talking about moving again). While Jackson doesn’t quite welcome Crenshaw at first, he warms up to the idea of having him around, because right now, he really needs a friend – even if it’s a huge, talking, imaginary cat.
This story is is captivating and sweet. Jackson’s struggle is heartbreaking, but at the same time, it’s amazing to see a family stick together through all of it. Jackson’s parents are in love and their love their children. They’re working as hard as they can to give them the life they deserve, and while it’s rough at times, Jackson and his little sister have a pretty positive outlook on things. Crenshaw is a light in the dark for Jackson, and the author has written all of these characters perfectly. I loved how much personality the characters had – it was so easy to get drawn into. This story is such an amazing story that manages to get its points across in a unique way – family really is the most important thing, and having a great imagination is a truly wonderful gift.