Reviews

Imaginary Friends: Crenshaw

Applegate, Katherine. Crenshaw. Feiwel and Friends, 2015. 245 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-1-25004-323-8; PLB $18.51, ISBN 978-1-51810-864-8

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? YES!

 

Genre: Fantasy

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

Jackson and his family do what they can to make ends meet. They were homeless once, living in a van when they lost their house. Jackson is afraid that they are approaching another homeless period. To compound his fears, a gigantic cat that eats grape jellybeans, wears snazzy tee-shirts, and takes bubble baths keeps appearing … but only he can see it. Crenshaw is this cat’s name, and the last time he saw Crenshaw was when he was homeless (and a little kid!). Jackson is all about the facts — science, chemistry, things that you can prove. So why does Crenshaw keep appearing? Is Jackson crazy, or does he just need to accept the magic?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Once again, Applegate takes a difficult subject and infuses it with magic and care. Jackson’s homelessness is discussed in a frank tone; Applegate does not use those moments to condescend to her readers. Jackson also reflects on how compared to other children who have been homeless, he had it easy as his period of homelessness was shorter than those he has met with similar stories. Crenshaw himself is fascinating; he combines the sweetness of an imaginary friend with the attitude (Cattitude?) that a talking giant cat would likely have.

 

This story also made me cry in public, which I am usually unhappy about. This story was just so sweet, however, that I did not mind. Jackson’s little sister (amongst others) work to help him accept magic in the world, and while readers will have to check out the book to find out if he does, I guarantee that it will give them something to think about.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a great book for reading circles to inspire the discussion of imagination. A fun activity would be to snack on jellybeans and make care packages for local shelters. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Horn Book Guide starred 4/1/16

Horn Book Magazine starred 9/1/15

Library Media Connection starred 1/1/16

Publishers Weekly starred 6/22/15

School Library Journal starred 8/1/15

 

Reviews referenced:

Carr, J. (n. d.). Crenshaw (Review of the book Crenshaw). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/crenshaw

Kirkus Reviews. (2015, June 29). Crenshaw (Review of the book Crenshaw). Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/katherine-applegate/crenshaw/

Reviews

Coraline the graphic novel adaptation by P. Craig Russell

Gaiman, Neil. Coraline. Adapted and Illustrated by P. Craig Russell. HarperCollins, 2008. 186 pages. Hardcover $16.19, ISBN 978-0-06-082543-0; Tr. $6.48, ISBN 978-0-06-082545-4; PLB $15.51, ISBN 978-0-329-69109-7

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Horror (Graphic Novel)

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

This graphic novel is an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s delightfully creepy novel. Readers who are familiar with the novel will recognize the elements that come straight from Gaiman. The story itself is scary and wonderful to read, so this review will focus on the illustrations.

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

As other commenters have noted, P. Craig Russell’s style is not entirely compatible with the “feel” of Gaiman’s story. It looked too realistic for Coraline; I supposed I’ve been spoiled by Selick’s interpretation in the film. Russell’s Coraline looked older (as commenters have noted), and she did not look like the girl I imagined. Furthermore, the Other Mother was clearly evil from the start in this adaptation. She is drawn in much sharper lines than Coraline’s mother, and her face is clearly predatory from Coraline’s first moment in the Other flat. I like how the film (and, arguably, Gaiman’s text) only hint at some creepiness (i.e, another Mother? What the what?) but doesn’t spoil that she truly is an evil creature. She looks wholesome (save her button eyes). While the film does open with the Other Mother remaking the doll into a Coraline doll, this is not a major spoiler of the terrifying beast that she is (the transformation in the film from humanoid Other Mother to arachnid made out of sewing needles is truly frightening!) Russell’s Other Mother was scary early on, her sharp teeth spoiling the evil reveal from her very first smile.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

A cool activity for a book club reading this graphic novel would be a scavenger hunt. It would not be quite so high stakes as Coraline’s search for the children’s souls and her parents, but it could still be fun! Items could be hidden throughout the school, and teams will be timed to find them. An alternate possibility would be to turn part of the library into an “escape room.” Kids will have to solve the puzzle and escape before the Other Mother takes their eyes! (Gruesome, but potentially fun)! I would have a box of buttons and a spool of thread handy just to creep out the kids if my group skews towards older tweens. (Ideas from myself; how to do an escape room here; I will refer to this activity several times in this document.)

 

Grade Level: 5-8

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 3/15/08

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books starred 9/1/08

Kirkus Reviews starred 6/15/08

Kliatt starred 9/1/08

Library Journal starred 1/1/09

School Library Journal starred 7/1/08

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) starred 6/1/08

 

Does the Cat Die?: (Highlight this whole line for the answer) >>> NO! 🙂

 

Review referenced:

John (screen name). (2009, Feb. 22). Comics: John reviews “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell (Review of the book Coraline). Wit War. Retrieved from https://witwar.wordpress.com/2009/02/22/comics-john-reviews-coraline-by-neil-gaiman-and-p-craig-russell/

 

Escape Room:

Booth, H. (2016, July 14). TPiB: Locked in the library! Hosting an escape room program at your library (blog post). Teen Librarian Toolbox. Retrieved from http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2016/07/tpib-locked-in-the-library/