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0000017c-60f7-de77-ad7e-f3f73a140000WMUK's weekly show on the literary community in Southwest Michigan. Between The Lines previously aired on Fridays during Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

Between the Lines: Kids and Homelessness

Katherine Applegate

This story has been updated. The audio has been changed to reflect the actual location of Applegate's appearance in Kalamazoo.  

When eleven-year-old Jacob walks into his bathroom, he finds a giant cat enjoying a bubble bath in his tub. He’s not sure about how he feels about the talking cat. But he is sure how he feels about losing the bathroom and the apartment where he lives. Jacob’s mom has lost her teaching job while his father can't work while he copes with multiple sclerosis. The family is forced to move into their minivan.

Homelessness and the fate of America's working poor are at the heart of the story Newbery Award-winning author Katherine Applegate tells in her new children’s novel Crenshaw (Feiwel & Friends, 2015).

“With Crenshaw I wanted to limn the experience of so many families in our country: the lost jobs, the scrabbling to make ends meet, the worry and the tears, while realistically portraying a loving family doing their best to get by,” says Applegate. “I think kids understand far more about the world than we sometimes realize. They know when money’s tight, when parents are on edge, and when their world is about to unravel. And they know, most importantly, when they are loved.”

A conversation with Katherine Applegate

Applegate has written about 150 books for children, many of them co-authored with her husband Michael Grant. Her novel The One and Only Ivan, based on a true story about a gorilla that spent more than two decades caged in a shopping mall, received the Newbery Medal in 2013. The book was listed more than 100 weeks on the New York Times Children’s bestseller list.

Applegate's other books include the Roscoe Riley Rules chapter book series, the picture book The Buffalo Storm, and the award- winning novel Home of the Brave as well as the Animorphs series co-written with Michael Grant. It has sold more than 35 million copies worldwide.

In creating her main human character Jackson alongside her main furry character Crenshaw, Applegate says she wanted to present Jackson as a strong-minded boy who loves science. That makes the appearance of his imaginary friend, who him through the family's crisis, even more baffling.

“I wanted him to be that kind of kid,” says Applegate. “Someone who doesn’t want things to be sugar-coated.”

Applegate did research for the book at a school called Monarch in San Diego, California, that's dedicated exclusively to educating homeless children.

“It’s one of two or three such schools in the country,” she says. While some argue that homeless children should not be isolated from the mainstream, Applegate says the children at Monarch excelled there because they believed their peers and teachers understood their unusual and difficult circumstances. “Children are remarkably resilient,” Applegate says.

Katherine Applegate will open Author Season at the main branch of the Kalamazoo Public Library on Tuesday, September 22, at 7 p.m. Free tickets are available at the library. The event will also be a food drive benefiting Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes. Attendees are encouraged to bring non-perishable food donations. The event is co-sponsored by Bookbug in Kalamazoo.

Listen to WMUK's Between the Lines every Tuesday at 7:50 a.m., 11:55 a.m., and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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