Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate | Audiobook Review

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate | Audiobook ReviewCrenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Narrator: Kirby Heybourne
Published by Macmillan on September 22nd 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy & Magic, Social Issues, Friendship
Pages: 300
Format: ARC, Audiobook
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon

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.

Why Did I Listen To This Book?

Personally, I love how Katherine Appelgate writes – especially her award winning fiction. I absolutely loved The One And Only Ivan which won the Newbery award. So, obviously I am not the only person who thinks Appelgate has writing chops. When I requested this book for review, the publicist sent me a personal email that went beyond the typical fill out this form email and expressed her passion for Crenshaw which is something that is important to me, as a blogger. And THEN! It showed up on Volumes narrated by Kirby Heybourne and well, here I am, listening to Crenshaw and what a brilliant, short, no holds barred story.

What’s The Story Here?

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate is narrated by a boy named Jackson. Jackson lives with his mom, dad, little sister Robin, and their dog whose name I forget. The family is short on rent money as Jackson’s dad has a messed up back so he can’t work and his mother lost her music teaching job – so she is underemployed and works 3 part time jobs. The family is in danger of homelessness and living in their van – in fact, that is what happens. Around this time, Jackson’s imaginary friend, a giant cat named Crenshaw comes back into the picture. Will Jackson and his family find housing and jobs? That is the question at hand in Crenshaw

How Did I Like Jackson As A Character?

I really enjoyed Jackson’s character. I liked that he expressed frustration with his parents’ happy go lucky attitude and optimism while they are down on their luck. I liked that Jackson is not a sheltered character, he is not shielded from reality. He comes across as a normal boy for his age, experiencing some rough circumstances. Yet, there are resiliency characteristics in Jackson. He is social. He has friends. He even enjoyed extracurriculars once upon a time – although now, there is no money for that kind of thing. So, yeah, I thought that he reacts in a realistic way to his circumstances, even when it comes to imagining a friend. Children have to deal with tough things from time to time and so, this is one way that they may react.

How Is The Poverty Represented?

I have spent essentially the majority of my post-college life working for non-profits aimed at alleviating poverty, so let me just say that I am something of a knowledgeable person about poverty, not to mention that I did not exactly grow up in a middle class household. I thought that Crenshaw did an accurate job of exploring poverty from a child’s perspective without going into scary-heavy mode.

As for the parents, I can tell you from what I have seen this is a normal thing. Like, when moms would go into the domestic violence shelter with young children, they would say they were staying at a hotel or make the experience seem like an adventure. What you need to understand is that parents in poverty want to protect and shield their young children from life’s harsh realities and let them be children just as much as parents who are in better circumstances. So, they put a light spin on things. They do this for the well being of the child. Personally, I think that every parent knows their child and their situation best, so it is not up to me to judge how parents broach these tough subjects.

Can I also say that I loved that the solution was not ‘just pull yourself up by your boot straps, get a job!’ I mean, Jackson’s parents had good jobs. Then they lost them. They both have educations. I mean, his mother even worked 3 part time jobs just to bring in some income. That is some hard work ethic right there.

Also, putting on my expert hat, I was skeptical at first, because there are many poverty based programs that provide actual financial assistance, such as food stamps and TANF etc. So, I was like this is not realistic, why are they not applying for these things. Turns out, they already did apply for those things or were in the process. So, I liked that Crenshaw discusses these things. Chances are some of the children reading will understand and have been through this process.

Overall, I just love that this book wasn’t dumbed down and did not underestimate its readers and their capacity for compassion and understanding reality – – especially as it is a reality that they themselves may be living.

What Did I Think Of The Narration?

Katherine Applegate’s Crenshaw is narrated by Kirby Heybourne. It is under 4 hours unabridged – so you could easily listen to it within a few days of commuting, or heck during the busiest laundry day ever. Heybourne is a seasoned pro at narrating middle grade books and it shows here. He does a wonderful job narrating the book and really has the sort of voice that a listener can connect with. Production values are high class. In all, a wonderfully narrated audiobook.

Sum It Up With A GIF:

Not a gif – but pretty much sums up poverty – it is crushing y’all.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I’ve been eyeing this book since we got it at the library. The cover is just so charming, and obviously Katherine Applegate has some excellent writing chops 🙂 . I’m really glad that you enjoyed this so much.