It’s Monday and here’s what I’m reading (#IMWAYR): Crenshaw & The Thing About Jellyfish

Join Jen Vincent for the round up of great books @Teach Mentor Texts

I am so lucky! Just because I teach middle school, I get to read (on a wonderfully consistent basis) amazing literature.  Such as:


Katherine Applegate’s latest book will make every fan of The One And Only Ivan sigh with sweet relief.  If you loved Ivan, you will be sure to love Crenshaw, the ridiculously large and opinionated cat who arrives in Jackson’s life just when Jackson most needs a friend who will speak the truth.  It seems as though very few people around Jackson want to speak the truth – and that begins with his parents.  After all, there is nothing fun about having to live in your family’s minivan for months, or having to make do with very little food in the pantry, or clothes that are always a bit too small…no matter how hard your parents try to make it “fun”.  Jackson knows.  And Crenshaw knows.  What will it take to make his parents know, so that they will tell the truth?

Crenshaw is  heartbreakingly sweet and hilariously funny.  It’s a story about hardships that so many of our children face: financial insecurity, homelessness, hunger, parents trying desperately to keep their families afloat.  It’s a story to read aloud and read quietly, to cry and smile over, to make a part of our essential libraries even as we teachers did with Ivan.  Here is an author interview which speaks to the heart of this story:

After Crenshaw, lucky me, I reached into my bookbag for Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish.


Suzy Swanson’s sixth grade summer ends with news of her best friend Franny’s death.   Franny drowned, she is told, sometimes these things just happen.  But Suzy knows that Franny was a fabulous swimmer, so this just doesn’t make sense. Suzy also knows lots of other things, vast swathes of facts about the way things work, the way they are supposed to work. And Suzy knows that the way sixth grade ended, with Franny in tears and their friendship in tatters, also doesn’t make sense. And then, Suzy thinks she has found a way to make sense of it all – jellyfish, specifically the Irukandji jellyfish.

Ali Benjamin’s writing is astonishing.  And Suzy is a character one is not likely to ever forget.  I found myself re=reading passages over and over, because they  were so beautifully written, because they brought me to tears, and because they made me think.  Here she is, discussing the book:

TWO remarkable books…teachers everywhere – these are meant for your libraries!


9 thoughts on “It’s Monday and here’s what I’m reading (#IMWAYR): Crenshaw & The Thing About Jellyfish

  1. Crenshaw has arrived, so I’ll read it soon. I haven’t picked up “the thing about jellyfish” yet, but I will. I love MG reading, too. Thanks for these suggestions.

  2. I loved both of these books! Beautiful writing in both. Jellyfish I was able to share with my 5th gr daughter, but probably won’t bring it into my K-4 school. Crenshaw is there, though!

  3. Can’t wait to read Crenshaw – sounds like a beautiful book, really. Thank you for sharing such a detailed review. I’ve also been reading a great deal of great reviews of The Thing about Jellyfish – so many wonderful middle grade novels out there. 🙂

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