Friday, April 9, 2010

The Cricket in Times Square: A Classic

The Cricket in Times Square (Chester Cricket and His Friends)

Written by: George Selden
Illustrated by: Garth Williams
Recommended Ages: 6-11

The Cricket in Times Square is one of those books you want to make sure your children get the pleasure of reading. I remember loving it as a child, and rediscovering it when my oldest was about seven years old. I read it aloud to him and his five year old brother, and they asked for it eagerly each night. Originally published in 1960, it has held up well over the years.

The story begins when Chester, a country cricket, ends up stranded in New York City after falling asleep in a picnic basket in Connecticut. He is befriended by Mario, a young boy who helps his parents run a newsstand, and Tucker the quintessential city mouse. Together, with Harry Cat, they teach Chester the ins and outs of city life.

Soon Chester's talents as a musician are discovered. He is able to recreate any music he hears, and people from all across the city come to hear him. But performing takes its toll and he eventually becomes homesick for the country. Tucker and Harry Cat help him find his way home.

The strength in this story lies in the unlikely, but tender friendships between a cricket, a mouse, a boy and a cat. Each of these characters are drawn in ways that kids appreciate. The backdrop of New York City is a perfect setting for this "country mouse/city mouse" story. Whether you read this to your kids, or they read it themselves The Cricket in Times Square is sure to please another generation of readers.

A heads-up: Keeping in mind that The Cricket in Times Square was written in 1960, there is a scene that takes place in Chinatown where Mario goes to buy a cricket cage for Chester. When Mr. Fong speaks it is in a Chinese dialect that substitutes l's for r's, ie. "velly good." Definitely not "P.C." for 2010, but you can choose to have a discussion about this with your kids, if you want.

BookNosher Tidbit: The Cricket in Times Square won a Newbery Honor medal in 1961.

BookNosher Activity: There are lots of classroom activities for The Cricket in Times Square on the internet. Since the setting plays such an important part in this book, I think it would be fun to learn more about the city of New York. Look at maps of the city and point out Times Square and China Town. Check out books about subways and New York. Here are a few noteworthy kid's books about New York: A Walk in New York by Salvatore Rubbino; My New York: New Anniversary Edition by Kathy Jakobsen and Up & Down New York (New York Bound Books) by Tony Sarg (originally published in 1926!). Any of these would enrich your child's reading experience of The Cricket in Times Square.

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