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The Cricket in Times Square    by George Selden & Garth Williams order for
Cricket in Times Square
by George Selden
Order:  USA  Can
Yearling, 1970 (1960)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

The Cricket In Times Square has been around for decades, yet still merits readers' attention. The story is bejeweled with charming, creative, and industrious characters, who give deep meaning to friendship, and a new lease on life to a family surviving in an atmosphere of high competition. The adventure is set in the Big Apple, in Times Square with its Broadway attractions, movie theaters, stores, hotels, restaurants - also the famed site of Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve celebration, and the dropping of the ball to cheers of crowds from all over the globe.

The book stars Chester Cricket, Tucker Mouse (a fast-talking Broadway mouse), his sidekick Harry Cat, and a youngster named Mario. It opens on Chester, an extraordinarily talented Cricket, venturing into a picnic basket, pursuing his unresistable taste for Liverwurst. Satiated from such a feast, Chester falls asleep and the basket lid closes on him, trapped in a bag of roast beef sandwiches. The basket owners return home via the subway. When the train reaches its destination, Chester realizes he's in New York City. The 'country cricket' had never ventured to the City. But Chester is about to meet the three best friends a cricket could ever hope for.

Papa and Mama Bellini own a newsstand in the Times Square station, where son Mario works late to give his parents a night out. This thoughtful gesture is observed by Tucker Mouse (and Harry Cat), who make their home in an abandoned drain pipe in the Square's complex. Tucker's home is at just the right angle to observe the frenzy and bustle of passersby. Before bedding down one night, Tucker hears an unfamiliar, peculiar sound. Mario hears it, too. In the 'rustling nothingness in the station ... It was like a quick stroke across the strings of a violin, or like a harp that had been plucked suddenly. 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.'

Upon careful investigation of floor refuse, Mario finds an insect about an inch-long with six legs and a pair of wings. After he gently cleans the dirt off the cricket, Mario returns to the newsstand and makes a perfect cricket bed in a match box. Mama encourages Mario to throw the bug away, even though her son replies that crickets are good luck and intelligent, and Papa agrees to house the pet at the newsstand. Chester scampers through a space in the boards of the newsstand: 'Psst! ... hey you up there - are you awake?' A voice answers 'Who is that going 'psst'?'

Tucker and Harry take Chester for a tour of Times Square. Awed by the lights and tall buildings, he sees one familiar item - the same star seen in his home sky in Connecticut. He's befriended by music teacher Mr. Smedley, who buys a copy of Musical America from the Bellini stand each morning and notices Chester's perfect pitch. Smedley replies to Mario's inquiry, 'He's already been taught by the greatest teacher of all ... Nature herself.'

George Selden's Newbery Honor Book, The Cricket In Times Square is a perspicacious, captivating, enchanting story - offset by Garth Williams' exquisite illustrations - to cherish and read over and over. Williams' images of Harry Cat sharing supper in Tucker's small domain are masterful and wondrous, finely detailed right down to the fine mouse whiskers, the hairs of the cat, the face lines of humans, the tentacles and sharp juts on a cricket's legs, the detail in a Chinese merchant shop, the scroll design on a vintage cash register, and warm glances in the eyes of friendship.

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