Wednesday, April 3, 2013

REVIEW: The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

I never read George Selden's The Cricket in Times Square as a kid, but I wish that I had. First published in 1960, Selden's book may not be a modern kid's first choice, but it's a sweet story about friendship, loyalty, and integrity. Chester Cricket finds himself in New York City because a liverwurst sandwich proved too scrumptious to pass up. Once there he is rescued by Mario, whose family runs a small newsstand in Times Square Station, then befriended by Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat. Mario adopts him as a pet, even procuring a cricket cage from a shop in Chinatown.

There are lessons in friendship (New York City cats and mice have worked past the age-old rivalry), integrity (Chester refuses to abandon the newsstand after an accident that will surely be thought his fault), and loyalty (Harry and Tucker help Chester fulfill a deep longing, even though it means they may never see him again).

Adults may be uncomfortable with the linguistic caricature of Mr. Fong and the fact that Mario seems to work a lot of late night shifts on the weekends, but these are excellent discussion points. How do modern authors deal with foreign accents? Why is Mario, an elementary-level student, working until past midnight on Saturdays? A little exploration of child labor laws and cultural stereotypes can lead to a lively discussion and an excellent opportunity for children to practice their critical thinking skills. It is the combination of weighty discussion material and positive lessons in The Cricket in Times Square that makes it a superb choice, especially for a kids' book club.

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