Top 100 Children’s Novels #82: The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
A fun and poignant story with plenty of humor. – Laurie Zaepfel
Boy, we’re filling in all sorts of gaps left and right, aren’t we? This book, I’m ashamed to say, never made it onto the previous poll (though I think I remember that it came close).
Macmillan’s description of the plot reads, “Tucker is a streetwise city mouse. He thought he’d seen it all. But he’s never met a cricket before, which really isn’t surprising, because, along with his friend Harry Cat, Tucker lives in the very heart of New York City—the Times Square subway station. Chester Cricket never intended to leave his Connecticut meadow. He’d be there still if he hadn’t followed the entrancing aroma of liverwurst right into someone’s picnic basket. Now, like any tourist in the city, he wants to look around. And he could not have found two better guides—and friends—than Tucker and Harry. The trio have many adventures—from taking in the sights and sounds of Broadway to escaping a smoky fire. Chester makes a third friend, too. It is a boy, Mario, who rescues Chester from a dusty corner of the subway station and brings him to live in the safety of his parents’ newsstand. He hopes at first to keep Chester as a pet, but Mario soon understands that the cricket is more than that. Because Chester has a hidden talent and no one—not even Chester himself—realizes that the little country cricket may just be able to teach even the toughest New Yorkers a thing or two.”
I don’t know how many of us remember the offensive parts, of course. Do you? As Silvey puts it in 100 Best Books for Children, “The Cricket in Times Square is an ideal book to read aloud, although many reades prefer to avoid the exaggerated Chinese dialect of the character Sai Fong.” I have the same trouble with Cheaper by the Dozen. The story behind this book is much sweeter. A subway cricket chirp served as Selden’s inspiration for the tale. He’d written a book for kids before called The Dog That Could Swim Under Water and apparently it’s fine that you aren’t familiar with it. This book won a Newbery Honor when it was released, it’s still remembered today, and Selden had some pretty interesting skeletons in his closet . . . but that’s a story that can wait for another day.
Was there an animated film you ask? Oh yes, best beloved, I’m afraid that there was. Interestingly enough, scour the internet though you may you cannot find so much as its trailer. We should give thanks for small favors.
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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