I expected this book to be about an imaginary friend, an imaginary cat. And there was a cat, a giant one named Crenshaw, who happens to be imaginary.

It opens really cute with a boy spotting Crenshaw on a surfboard.

But the reality of this boy’s life soon enters the story. Crenshaw made his first appearance when Jackson and his family had to live out of their minivan. His parents used to be musicians but his father has MS and his mother now works part-time jobs to get by.

And now, a few years later, he’s back again, when things seem to be not going as well. Jackson, who’s heading into fifth grade, wishes his parents would realize that he’s old enough to understand their financial difficulties. Jackson is scared that they have to go back to living in their car again.

And Crenshaw, with his cartwheels, splits, and penchant for bubble baths, both helps to distract him and understand their situation.

We listened to this audiobook and I was surprised by how much my kids enjoyed it. I had to stop the audiobook here and there just to make sure the 5yo (and sometimes the 8yo) understood what was going on. We haven’t quite read a book like Crenshaw before, one which talked about hunger and poverty and eviction. I had to explain about eviction – and as I did I was thankful that this was something we’ve never had to worry about. Perhaps it was because of this audiobook that I started on my current nonfiction read, Evicted.

American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures – edited by America Ferrera

I listened to this one and it was such a great audiobook. Quite a lot of the chapters were narrated by the writers themselves. And what a wonderfully diverse group of essay writers! I love that they were from so many different ethnicities and cultures and backgrounds. These are not just people who write for a living (of course there are plenty of writers in the mix) but there are also politicians, people in sports (like Michelle Kwan and Jeremy Lin), people on TV/stage/screen (like Padma Lakshmi, Lin Manuel Miranda, and Wilmer Valderrama), activists like transgender advocate Geena Rocero.

They all have amazing stories to tell about being American – some wanted to blend in, wanting those white-bread sandwiches that would help them feel less different, others determined to stand out and be different.

Listening to this as an audiobook was a great choice. I loved hearing them read out their stories, and it was nice to put a voice to an unfamiliar name.

As America Ferrera writes: “I believe that culture shapes identity and defines possibility; that it teaches us who we are, what to believe, and how to dream. We should all be able to look at the world around us and see a reflection of our true lived experiences. Until then, the American story will never be complete.”

Unthinkable: What The World’s Most Extraordinary Brains Can Teach Us About Our Own

A science journalist’s interest in rare brain disorders takes her around the world as she meets people with lycanthropy, audio hallucinations, Cotard delusion or Walking Corpse Syndrome (ie thinking you’re dead). I listened to the audiobook, read by Thomson herself, & I felt all the earnestness and hard work that she poured into her research as well as her fascination for the subject.

Book thoughts: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

This review is for the audiobook:

As usual, Alan Cumming is an absolute delight to listen to. I love how he voices all the different characters (especially Bovril)! This second book in the steampunk series again blasts through at breakneck speed, this time mainly in Istanbul. I really liked that we get more character development from Deryn, the girl who poses as a boy so she can fly on the Leviathan. Overall a really enjoyable listen!