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The Cricket in Times Square
ISBN 0440228891 / 9780440228899 / 0-440-22889-1
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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) [via]