It’s Monday! What are you reading? – fiction with social issues

51ffwVD0FeL._SX339_BO1,204,203,200_This week I was traveling and my digital copy of Crenshaw came in from the library. What a wonderful world we live in when you can be 250 miles away from your library and still pick up your book you have been waiting for. Yes, I will also walk up to the library today and pick up the other books that can’t fly through the air waves – I will read books anyway I can.

I had heard so much about Crenshaw and have really liked Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan so was really excited to download this story. I had been waiting since it first came out in September. I had tried getting an arc but that was a no go.  With all this excitement I settled into read in my hotel room late in the evening after a long day working in an old garden and driving long hours.

Can you hear it in my writing – in all my excitement to read this book there was a but -it is that I was a bit disappointed. It is a good example of writing about social issue. It would be good for students to think about the issue of homelessness or in the case of my past classrooms to know there are others children who live like they do.

I liked the bit of magic with the adult sized cat although he did seem more like a real adult – a bit of a therapist to our main character. I was surprised when I got to the end. Not that it had a surprise ending just surprised because I felt the story was just getting started. I wanted more to happen. I am struggling to say what it is that makes me not fall in love with this book. Applegate has all the right elements in this story –

  • a two lovable characters
  • a social issue worth reading and knowing about – homelessness, imaginary friends
  • a bit of magic
  • issues to discuss but written with a light touch – not so dark you want to stay clear of the topic
  • her writing is great for 3rd or 4th graders

I guess as I review it I am thinking I needed the topic to go deeper. In saying that I have to remember I am an adult. I was intrigued by the issue of the imaginary friend who is helping our character deal with the stress of losing one’s home and belongings. This story was just a bit to clean and neat for my adult self. When I was in third grade this might have been just right.


About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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7 Responses to It’s Monday! What are you reading? – fiction with social issues

  1. As teachers or librarians we sometimes have to think about books from multiple perspectives, trying to balance our adult sensibilities with the perspectives of our child readers. I sometimes find myself having to pull back a bit and reassess my choices – it’s all too easy to pick out books that we as adults think kids should love, without stopping to think what they actually will love. Anyway, just a bit of a ramble to say I appreciate your thoughts on reading children’s literature and trying to see stories from the perspectives of their intended audiences (even if it’s been a while since we were kids!)

  2. I read Crenshaw as well this week. I liked it, but didn’t love it. Since I had heard so much about it I thought I would love it more. I do think Jackson’s story would introduce readers to a serious topic and help them consider others’ situations. When I was almost at the end I do remember thinking that I wished there would be more to the story.

  3. Linda Baie says:

    I appreciate your idea of adults needing to think carefully about the needs of children at different ages, what they enjoy reading, what they might not. I enjoyed Crenshaw, liked that Applegate showed that even older students can need an imaginary friend, especially in crisis, but it wasn’t a five star for me as Ivan is. It was more complex in the storytelling, and brought some good lessons to the table, like for kids to let parents know how they “really feel”. Thanks for your honesty, Joanne.

  4. I haven’t read Crenshaw yet, but I do want to. I’ll try to remember to read it through the eyes and mind of a child instead of an adult.

  5. Thanks for your reminder to be mindful of what our readers want and will appreciate. My elementary students shake their heads that I could not finish Doll Bones. The ones who have read it, love it and don’t find it that scary. I’ve been worried about Crenshaw mostly just because I find when a book gets a lot of buzz, my expectations become really high, maybe too much, and nothing can live up to them. Happy reading this week.

  6. Myra GB says:

    Thank you for sharing your candid thoughts about Crenshaw and what didn’t work for you. Great insight as well about reader response and about how where we are presently in our lives may contribute to our ‘reading’ of the novel. 🙂

  7. I have the same issue with middle grades novels from time to time; I just don’t love them. I also feel that they should go deeper or explore the issues more. Thanks for the reminder that the books aren’t really for me, they’re for middle grades kiddos.

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