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Title: The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
Notable: Newbery Honor book, 1961
Chester cricket is accidentally transported from his rural Connecticut home to the Times Square subway station in New York City. A friendly cat and mouse help Chester fit into this new and foreign environment, and a boy named Mario Bellini adopts Chester as his new pet. Chester is instrumental in saving the Bellini’s struggling newspaper stand.
This book was completely new to me and I’m happy to report that it was an enjoyable read. The story is very basic, but the animal characters are charming and really the focus of the story.
My two favorite characters are Chester cricket (of course) and Sai Fong, the Chinese gentleman. Chester is so good-natured and you can’t help but feel sorry for him. This poor little country cricket finds himself dumped in the big, loud, dirty city without a soul to help him. Thank goodness Tucker mouse and Harry cat step in! It’s fun to imagine the scenes when Chester is giving his concerts in the subway and all of the people are standing there rapt. The child in me wants to go find a cricket now just to listen to their song. (Incidentally, we had a cricket infestation in our house several years ago, and I can assure you that it’s not too fun hunting loud crickets in the middle of the night when all you want is to get some sleep.)
When we are first introduced to Sai Fong, the man who owns a Chinese laundry and trinket shop, I was afraid that it was going to be another stereotypical portrayal of a Chinese person, hinting at our American superiority. Thankfully that was not the case. Sai Fong is a lovable character who is ecstatic about Mario’s lucky pet cricket. He helps Mario get a cage for his cricket (really a beautiful pagoda), has them over for dinner, and supplies Mario with mulberry leaves to feed Chester. Although his character doesn’t step outside the bounds of the typical Chinese character, he is presented with a loving eye.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. Though it has not become one of my favorites, I still think it’s a great chapter book for kids. The story would need a bit more than pure fluff to put it on my list of cherished books.
I recommend The Cricket in Times Square to elementary-age kids or as a cute family read-aloud.
- Chinese man’s language is garbled and spelled phonetically (if you’re particularly sensitive, you might find this offensive)
Rating: 3 1/2 Stars
Until next time…