Friday, August 18, 2017

The Cricket in Times Square, by George Selden

Staff review by Chris Saliba

A cricket catches a train to Times Square station and makes some friends.

Chester the cricket has accidently found himself transported from his lush, countryside home in Connecticut to the busy metropolis of New York. Trapped in a family’s picnic lunch, he has taken a train ride into Times Square station. After managing to get off the train, he finds his way to a newsstand run by the Bellini family. There he meets Mario , Mama and Papa Bellini's young son. Mario begs his parents to allow him to keep Chester as a pet.

Chester’s adventures begin when he meets Tucker, a mouse that lives in a drain pipe and Harry, his friend the cat. The trio soon become good friends, but get themselves into a few scrapes, especially when they accidently set fire to the Bellinis' financially struggling newsstand, ruining some of the stock. It seems like Chester’s time could be up, as Mama Bellini accuses Chester of starting the fire, insisting Mario has to let him go. But then something wonderful happens. Chester, who has a talent for chirping songs, chirps one of Mama Bellini’s favourites. Suddenly the fortunes of the newsstand are turned around as people come far and wide to hear the musical cricket. Chester gives two performances everyday, one at 8am and one at 4.30pm. Everything seems to be going swimmingly. The group of three – Chester, Tucker and Harry - enjoy a wonderful friendship and business is booming for the Bellinis.  But then Chester starts to get homesick for Connecticut and grows weary of his demanding musical concerts. What will he do?

George Seldon’s 1960 children’s novel The Cricket in Times Square is a well deserved American Classic. The story has a wonderful warmth and kindness, somewhat reminiscent of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. Chester, Tucker and Harry are all nicely drawn, with their own distinct personalities. The human characters are also varied and interesting, all helping to create a vibrant picture of multicultural New York. The book has some lovely scenes where Mario takes Chester to Chinatown to buy an ornate cricket’s cage from shop owner Sai Fong.

By the end of The Cricket in Times Square, you may feel sad to say goodbye to Chester, Tucker and Harry. Such sorrow is short lived by the fact that the trio’s adventures continue for another six books.

Suitable for 6 year olds and up

The Cricket in Times Square, by George Selden. Published by Square Fish. $16.95

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