The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

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Title: The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

Notable: Newbery Honor book, 1961

Premise:

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.

My thoughts:

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.

Possible Objections:

  • 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…

Lori

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Miss Bianca in the Orient by Margery Sharp

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Title: Miss Bianca in the Orient by Margery Sharp

Premise:

When the Ambassador from the Orient visits, Miss Bianca learns of an unfortunate page boy who is condemned to death for sneezing in the Ranee’s sherbet.  Miss Bianca and Bernard travel to “the Orient” to try and save the poor boy.  But will their plan succeed when nobody seems to know anything about him or his whereabouts?

My thoughts:

I just finished this book tonight and I came away disappointed.  I remember reading it when I was younger, but I must not have been quite as critical back then.  There were some things that I picked up on this time through which really put a bad taste in my mouth.

Let’s start with the good, though.  I love Miss Bianca and Bernard.  They have such lovely personalities and work very well as a team.  Bernard’s devotion to Miss Bianca is so, so sweet.  The premise of the story is also promising.  Our intrepid duo travels to “the Orient” to rescue an unfortunate page boy who has been sentenced to death.  The characters we meet in the palace court are interesting and fairly well developed.  While the plot is very simple, it’s quite adequate for an elementary chapter book.  And the illustrations by Erik Blegvad are very nicely done.

On to the bad.  Throughout the book, the language referring to “the Orient” is exceptionally outdated and imprecise.  Where exactly is “the Orient”?  Why can’t we name a specific country with a specific language?  What exactly is “Oriental writing”?  What does it mean to be “Orientally thoughtless”?  It doesn’t take a genius to pick up on the idea that the writer views “the Orient” as a generic group of people living in the East whose way of life is inferior to that of the West.  Based on the details contained in the book, I believe the author had India in mind as the setting, but it’s never actually stated.  Are we trying to make our children stupid by teaching them that the entirety of the East is one homogeneous and backward group of people?

Quite frankly, I won’t be keeping this book around the house because I would be mortified to have my children read the book and start talking about “the Orient” or “Oriental writing”.  I would rather they learn about specific countries, languages, and people groups.

I don’t recommend Miss Bianca in the Orient to children because of what I perceive as subtle prejudice.  However, if you’re an adult fan of Miss Bianca and Bernard, you might want to read this book to round out your knowledge of all of their adventures.


Possible Objections:

  • Prejudice against “Orientals”

Rating: 2 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Pippa Mouse by Betty Boegehold

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Title: Pippa Mouse by Betty Boegehold

Premise:

Join Pippa mouse and her friends, Weber Duck, Gray Bird and Ripple Squirrel, as they take part in some fun and wholesome adventures!  The friends build nests, work together, play on the ice and celebrate Christmas together.

My thoughts:

I absolutely adore this book!  It is so fun, cute and innocent that you can’t keep from liking it.  Pippa mouse is a playful and inquisitive young mouse who likes to get others to join in her adventures.  Each story features one of her short adventures.

The overall story is very simple, reminding me of the Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel.  They have that same story form and wonderful drawings which are just as integral to the story as the text.

The illustrations are by Cyndy Szekeres and are done in nature-centric 70’s style.  They are thoroughly charming and make the animals look so cute you could just gobble them up.  Just seeing the drawings of Pippa Mouse kind of makes you fall in love with her.  🙂

I recommend Pippa Mouse to young readers, and to families as an excellent read-aloud story.  I think it will become a new family favorite.

 

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

4 Favorite Children’s Books #5

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Here are more of our favorite children’s books coming your way!  Are any of these your favorites, too?

If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff

Mouse goes to the movies and gets a kit for making a popcorn string, which he wants to put on the Christmas tree.  Along the way, he gets distracted into making a snow mouse and from there subsequently gets distracted into doing a whole string of other Christmas activities.  We absolutely love these books which feature Mouse.  They are full of fun and action, and the illustrations are just wonderful.

Can’t You Sleep, Little Bear? by Martin Waddell

This is a simple and cute story about a little bear who can’t go to sleep because it’s too dark.  Big Bear brings a lantern, but Little Bear says it’s still too dark.  So Big Bear brings another, and another, and another…  When all of the lanterns have been lit and Little Bear says it’s still too dark, Big Bear takes him outside to look at the light from the stars and the moon.  Finally Little Bear falls asleep.  This book has a lot of repetition and would be good for a child who is afraid of the dark.

Too Many Toys by David Shannon

Spencer has too many toys.  They are spread out all over the house, and he just keeps getting new ones for birthdays, Christmas, etc.  Finally, Spencer’s mother says that it’s time to get rid of some toys, but how can he part with his special friends?  He and his mother haggle over which toys to get rid of, until they’ve filled one box.  However, Spencer can’t bear to get rid of the box–the best toy ever!  Does any of this sound familiar?

Touch the Brightest Star by Christie Matheson

This book is absolutely adorable!  It’s a perfect bedtime story, leading your child to perform a simple action on each page of the book, and gradually calming them to be ready for sleep.  The illustrations are lovely and I think I’ll be purchasing this one for my daughter’s next birthday.  It’s one of my new favorites.

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

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We received The Gruffalo from a family member several years ago as a gift.  It’s a cute story about a mouse and a monster-type animal called a Gruffalo.  The mouse is walking through the woods and when he is accosted by animals that want to eat him, he describes a monstrous animal that he’s meeting to share a meal with.  The other animals flee because the Gruffalo sounds so scary and forbidding.  Of course, the mouse doesn’t believe in the Gruffalo, until they actually meet in the woods!

Thinking fast again to avoid being eaten, the mouse tells the Gruffalo to follow him and see that all the animals in the woods are afraid of him.  As they walk past each animal it flees, not because of the mouse, but because of the Gruffalo who is tailing the mouse.  The Gruffalo, however, doesn’t realize this and runs away from the big bad mouse, too.

The illustrations in this book are fabulous!

Until next time…

Lori

Mouse Moves House by Phil Roxbee Cox

Mouse Moves House

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Mouse Moves House is a cute and relatively short phonics reader for kids who are learning to read.  It has a lot of rhyming words and short sentences.  There are also a few folded flaps that reveal a change in the illustrations.  The illustrations are by Stephen Cartwright and they are so cute!

In this story, Mack the mouse is moving house, so his friend Jack comes over to help him pack.  At the end, the mice encounter a cat and Jack panics.  It turns out the cat is Mack’s friend Fat Cat.  He helps transport Mack, Jack, and Mack’s belongings to his new home.

Toodles,

Jewls &  Lori

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