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The Cricket in Times Square

Last updated Thursday, May 6, 2010

Author: George Selden
Illustrator: Garth Williams
Date of Publication: 1960
ISBN: 0374316503
Grade Level: 4th    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Mar. 2010

Synopsis: One night, the sounds of New York City--the rumbling of subway trains, thrumming of automobile tires, hooting of horns, howling of brakes, and the babbling of voices--is interrupted by a sound that even Tucker Mouse, a jaded inhabitant of Times Square, has never heard before. Mario, the son of Mama and Papa Bellini, proprietors of the subway-station newsstand, had only heard the sound once. What was this new, strangely musical chirping? None other than the mellifluous leg-rubbing of the somewhat disoriented Chester Cricket from Connecticut. Attracted by the irresistible smell of liverwurst, Chester had foolishly jumped into the picnic basket of some unsuspecting New Yorkers on a junket to the country. Despite the insect's wurst intentions, he ends up in a pile of dirt in Times Square. Mario is elated to find Chester. He begs his parents to let him keep the shiny insect in the newsstand, assuring his bug-fearing mother that crickets are harmless, maybe even good luck. What ensues is an altogether captivating spin on the city mouse/country mouse story, as Chester adjusts to the bustle of the big city. Despite the cricket's comfortable matchbox bed (with Kleenex sheets); the fancy, seven-tiered pagoda cricket cage from Sai Fong's novelty shop; tasty mulberry leaves; the jolly company of Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat; and even his new-found fame as "the most famous musician in New York City," Chester begins to miss his peaceful life in the Connecticut countryside. The Cricket in Times Square--a Newbery Award runner-up in 1961--is charmingly illustrated by the well-loved Garth Williams, and the tiniest details of this elegantly spun, vividly told, surprisingly suspenseful tale will stick with children for years and years. Make sure this classic sits on the shelf of your favorite child, right next to The Wind in the Willows. (Ages 9 to 12)

Note to readers:
•  Read Chapters 1-4 and then skip to Chapter 10-12 or beyond. The first few chapters introduce the main characters and chapter 10 begins the discovery of Cricket's special talent.
•  Fun Fact: the Illustrator has also illustrated Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little and the Little House books.
•  Vocabulary: scrounging (looking for things); refuse (garbage); eavesdropping (listening in on others conversations); forlornly (sadly); luminous (glowing)

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What city does this story take place in? (New York)
•  Have you ever visited or heard of Times Square in New York? (It is an intersection where there are many bright lights, people, and buildings. On New Year's Eve, a big, lighted ball is dropped to celebrate the upcoming year and thousands of people come to watch)
•  Have you ever seen a cricket? A mouse?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Can a cricket and a mouse be friends?
•  Can a mouse and a cat be friends?
•  Do you have a special gift like Cricket? Is being a nice person a special gift? (Yes)
•  Do you play a musical instrument?
•  Do you want to learn to play a musical instrument? What instrument?
•  Why isn't Cricket happy playing for all of those people?

Craft ideas:
•  Make a musical instrument and discover your special gift. Take a paper/plastic cup; make 4 holes on each side of the top of the cup. Take string and tie to one hole, tie the other part of the string to the opposite/corresponding hole. Tighten the string before you tie it off. Do this to the other holes. You should have 4 strings tight on top of the plastic/paper cup. Strum the strings like a guitar.
•  Take a paper cup and fill it with 10 beans or a small handful of dried popcorn. Squeeze the top of the paper cup together and secure with staples and then tape so the beans or popcorn do not fall out. Hold the cup from the squeezed top end and shake. You now have a tambourine!
•  Draw your own CD cover for your band.
•  Write lyrics for a song. Lyrics are similar to stories or poems. Put together words or phrases and tell a story; make sure you repeat several phrases/lines to form the chorus.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!