I’m not sure what kind of an imaginary friend I was expecting – is there a standard imaginary friend?? – but a very large, bossy, and uncooperative one was definitely not it. Crenshaw is Jackson’s imaginary friend, but Jackson does not seem that happy to see him again. The last time Crenshaw was around, Jackson’s family was living in their car. Jackson’s family is in a tough situation again. Is that why Crenshaw’s returned?
Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan is a favorite for many upper elementary kids, so I was expecting a lot from this book. It’s not really what I thought it would be, but it’s also more than I expected. Hunger and homelessness is a tough thing to talk about with kids. Those who have never experienced it can’t really imagine it; those who have lived it understandably might not want to spend a lot of time thinking or chatting about it.
Katherine Applegate has taken the larger issue and brought it down to a closer level, one with realistic characters and feelings we can all relate to –Jackson’s glass-half-full parents, his fears about losing friends, the sister he loves, and the imaginary friend he feels too old for. It’s not a happy book, but it’s a good one.