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The Cricket in Times Square (1960)

by George Selden

Other authors: Garth Williams (Illustrator)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Chester Cricket and Friends (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
6,992711,135 (3.99)69
The adventures of a country cricket who unintentionally arrives in New York and is befriended by Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat.
  1. 70
    Charlotte's Web by E. B. White (cmbohn)
  2. 41
    Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater (cmbohn)
  3. 10
    The Old Meadow by George Selden (editfish)
    editfish: This book is a sequel to 'A Cricket in Times Square'. Don't read any of the other 'Chester' or 'Harry' books until you've first read that one!
  4. 00
    Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien (al.vick)
  5. 00
    Chester Cricket's New Home by George Selden (editfish)
    editfish: This book is a sequel to 'A Cricket in Times Square'. Don't read any of the other 'Chester' or 'Harry' books until you've first read that one!
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» See also 69 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 70 (next | show all)
The boys really liked this one. I remember nothing about it although I know I read it as a child. A good book about friendship in unlikely places and learning to be true to yourself. Children have an extrememly large capacity for willing suspension of disbelief. This book play right into that ability. Just like the boy in the book, they can imagine that a cricket has intelligence and a soul. ( )
  Luziadovalongo | Jul 14, 2022 |
Utterly charming. I was drawn back to this one by the news of a new edition that will update some of the more, well, racist aspects of the book. Despite doing a whole unit on this book in early elementary school, I didn't remember the Chinese characters at all. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Tucker the mouse lives in the Times Square subway station, right across from a struggling newsstand near the Times Square-Union Station shuttle. Late one evening he hears a beautiful, strange sound...and so does Mario, the son of the Italian immigrants who own the newsstand. It's a cricket, whose love of liverwurst got him caught up in the basket of some New Yorkers picnicking in his meadow in Connecticut, and who is, like many out-of-towners, overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle of the city. Mario takes him in as a pet on his mother's condition that the dirty bug lives in the newsstand, not their home. That night, Tucker and his friend Harry the cat quickly befriend Chester Cricket.

The book contains a series of adventures before settling into something like a plot: Chester and his friends feast, venture topside to Times Square, and earn a little money to make up for some that they lose; meanwhile, Mario ventures down to Chinatown with Chester to buy him a little cage, and they end up befriending a pair of Chinese immigrants who share cricket lore, care tips, and a delicious meal. After a night when the animals' antics go a bit too far and cause big trouble for Mario's family, they discover that Chester has a talent for music that even humans can love. With the support of an enthusiastic, music-loving customer, word spreads, attracting appreciative audiences who give the newsstand a boost. But fame is a tricky thing, and Chester misses his meadow. In the end, he must make a difficult decision, and is friends and owner must learn to respect his choice and say goodbye.

Selden published The Cricket in Times Square in 1960, so the book is full of glimpses of a bygone city: Italian immigrants abandoning their culture, Chinese immigrants maintaining traditions, a young child allowed to work a late-night newsstand and take the subway downtown on his own in order to learn about and appreciate the new and different; a Times Square full of neon lights instead of digital displays, a subway still divided between companies, and lunch counters in the station instead of cheap souvenir shops and chain stores.

As for the Chinese men, I get the sense (the unfounded hope?) that this was a case where the intention may have been good but the handling and knowledge weren't. Writing out dialect really shouldn't be done by someone who doesn't speak it (though another reviewer points out some unexpected linguistic accuracies); emotions shouldn't be associated with physical characteristics ("The old Chinese man...looked slyly out of the corner of his eyes" [p 45]); cultural signs of respect shouldn't be turned into a joke; and, um, kimonos are Japanese clothing, not Chinese. Still, Mario's overall appreciation of what he learns from the Chinese men--how to care for a cricket, how to use chopsticks instead of asking for a fork, that real Chinese food is delicious rather than strange, that clothes and plates and cricket cages are different but beautiful--struck me as much more inclusive than I would expect from a book written in the '50s, rather than completely othering.

I saw complaints about Sao Feng's sudden switch from suspicion to childlike delight when he learns that Mario has a cricket, but that does seem to jibe with the heightened and childlike emotions displayed by other adult characters, such as Mario's mother's disgust and distrust of an insect, and the music professor's snobby skepticism turning into worshipful awe of Chester's musical talent. This exaggeration is something that I see in many children's books, and I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing, especially when characters who seem like caricatures at first develop more nuance later: Mario's mother gets teary when she hears an old Italian song and the professor shows up for all of Chester's performances. Look no further than Pixar's Inside Out for an illustration of how children feel big, simple emotions while developing more complex feelings, demonstrated by Mario's understanding and acceptance of Chester's ultimate decision. (If anything, Mario's mother's histrionics compared to her young son's level-headedness could be seen as sexist without other high-emotion (male) characters to keep her company.)

This review focuses on the humans because that's what gets the most attention in criticism these days, but the stars of the story are clearly Chester Cricket, Tucker Mouse, and Harry the Cat, three unlikely friends who support each other even when baffled by their preferences, who discuss difficult decisions and mistakes and then help each other follow through on resolutions and amends-making. Their oddball but genuine friendship is what truly gives this book its staying power.

The Cricket in Times Square is endearing, and there is an undercurrent of good feeling and themes of learning about and respecting strangers and people who are different from yourself. I'm hopeful that the forthcoming revised and updated edition will preserve these elements and enhance the charm by revising the parts that we now recognize as less than charming. Hopefully this will allow a new generation of children to love Chester, Tucker, Harry, and Mario, and enjoy their adventures without feeling belittled by or internalizing harmful stereotypes.

Quotes

p. 6) Now Tucker Mouse had heard almost all the sounds that can be heard in New York City. He had heard the rumble of the subway trains and the shriek their iron wheels make when they go around a corner. From above, through the iron grills that open onto the streets, he had heard the thrumming of the rubber tires of automobiles, and the hooting of their horns, and the howling of their brakes. And he had heard the babble of voices when the station was full of human beings, and the barking of the dogs that some of them had on leashes. Birds, the pigeons of New York, and cats, and even the high purring of airplanes above the city Tucker had heard. But in all his days, and on all his journeys through the greatest city in the world, Tucker had never heard a sound quite like this one.

p. 8) Mario heard the sound too. . . . If a leaf in a green forest far from New York had fallen at midnight through the darkness into a thicket, it might have sounded like that.

p. 102) Just as I wondered about whether the Chinese was accurate, I wondered whether the Italian was as well. Still, this scene where Chester softens Mama Bellini's hard heart by playing, at Tucker's encouragement, a song that turns out to be her favorite, with an accompanying description of her memories of young love in Italy, was heartwarming.

Disclaimer: While I work for the parent company of the imprint that publishes this book (now--I read an edition published by Dell/Yearling), my opinions are entirely my own and do not reflect those of the publisher. ( )
  books-n-pickles | Mar 26, 2022 |
A little dated, but still a cute story for younger readers. ( )
  bookwyrmm | Nov 15, 2021 |
A sweet, delightful, _innocent_ children's book, from a more innocent time. I wish I'd read this as a child, but it still put a smile on my face when I read it as an adult. ( )
  JohnNienart | Jul 11, 2021 |
NA
  pszolovits | Feb 3, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
George Seldenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Williams, GarthIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Auberjonois, RenéNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Shalhoub, TonyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Williams, GarthCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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A mouse was looking at Mario.
Quotations
What good is it to be famous if it only makes you unhappy?
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The adventures of a country cricket who unintentionally arrives in New York and is befriended by Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat.

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The adventures of a country cricket who unintentionally arrives in New York and is befriended by Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat.

Available online at The Internet Archive:
https://archive.org/search.php?query=t...
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