Synopses & Reviews
Tucker is a streetwise city mouse. He thought hed seen it all. But hes never met a cricket before, which really isnt surprising, because, along with his friend Harry Cat, Tucker lives in the very heart of New York City—the Times Square subway station. Chester Cricket never intended to leave his Connecticut meadow. Hed be there still if he hadnt followed the entrancing aroma of liverwurst right into someones picnic basket. Now, like any tourist in the city, he wants to look around. And he could not have found two better guides—and friends—than Tucker and Harry. The trio have many adventures—from taking in the sights and sounds of Broadway to escaping a smoky fire.
Chester makes a third friend, too. It is a boy, Mario, who rescues Chester from a dusty corner of the subway station and brings him to live in the safety of his parents newsstand. He hopes at first to keep Chester as a pet, but Mario soon understands that the cricket is more than that. Because Chester has a hidden talent and no one—not even Chester himself—realizes that the little country cricket may just be able to teach even the toughest New Yorkers a thing or two. The Cricket in Times Square is a 1961 Newbery Honor Book.
“The story of a musical cricket and his friends, a mouse and a cat of real character, who took up their abode in a Times Square newsstand . . . Most appealing whimsy with beautiful illustrations by Garth Williams.”—School Library Journal
, Starred Review “Delightful reading for the whole family.”—The Horn Book Magazine
“This is absolutely grand fun for anyone, a nine to ninety book with the most enchanting portraits by Garth Williams.”—The New York Herald Tribune
"Salamon's breezy but sophisticated chapter book has New York down cold—street musicians, subway rats, ridiculous rents, and all... Weber's glossy, full-color spot illustrations have plenty of Greenwich Village quirk... A sweet love letter to New York, cats, and what it means to be 'home.'"—Booklist
"Bittersweet and meaningful, Cat in the City shows the solemnity and inevitability of change and the importance of finding a family and a home to call your own."—School Library Journal
"[Weber's] stylist spot illustrations are little love letters to the Big Apple that also capture the bohemian bonhomie of Pretty Boy's circle."—Publisher's Weekly
Praise and Accolades for Counting by 7s:
* “A graceful, meaningful tale featuring a cast of charming, well-rounded characters who learn sweet—but never cloying—lessons about resourcefulness, community, and true resilience in the face of loss.”—Booklist (starred review)
* “What sets this novel apart from the average orphan-finds-a-home book is its lack of sentimentality, its truly multicultural cast (Willow describes herself as a “person of color”; Mai and Quang-ha are of mixed Vietnamese, African American, and Mexican ancestry), and its tone. . . . Poignant.”—The Horn Book (starred review)
* “Willow's story is one of renewal, and her journey of rebuilding the ties that unite people as a family will stay in readers' hearts long after the last page.”—School Library Journal (starred review)
* "A deeply original tale . . . Readers will rejoice." —BCCB (starred review)
New York Times Bestseller
E.B. White Read Aloud Award Honor
ALA Notable Book
YALSA Best Book for Young Adults
Booklist Best Fiction for Young Adults
Booklist Notable Children's Book
BCCB Blue Ribbon Book
School Library Journal Best Books of 2013
Horn Book Fanfare Title
NYPL 100 Books for Reading and Sharing
Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
Teachers' Choices Reading List
Notable Children's Book in Language Arts
Praise for Ratscalibur
“Its funny, its scary, and its sweet, like life. But it has talking rats and magic, so its better than life." --Jimmy Fallon
Praise for Josh Lieb's I Am A Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President:
"If War and Peace had a baby with the The Breakfast Club and then left that baby to be raised by wolves, this book would be the result. I loved it." --Jon Stewart
"Josh Lieb is one of the great brave journeys in American literature. Or maybe he just signed my name to a blurb he wrote. Either way, you have to admit he's brave. And the book is hilarious." --Judd Apatow
"Josh Lieb has set literature back a hundred years." --Daniel Pinkwater
"Beware, kids: Once your parents pick it up, they won't be able to put it down. (Guilty as charged.)" --New York Post
"Pitch perfect . . . Every kid who's ever felt put upon, misunderstood, and, let's admit it, infinitely superior to his or her peers will laugh out loud as they enter Oliver's hilarialous secret world." --BCCB, starred review
"Lieb's creative and twisted first novel gets a positive vote." --Kirkus Reviews
"Walter Mitty for teenagers, especially those who do not fit in. They will become huge fans of this book." --VOYA
"This is a book that kids will be talking about." --School Library Journal
A mouse, a cat, and a cricket take a bite out of the Big Apple.
A tender and beautifully illustrated debut childrens book from a New York Times bestselling team
A city savvy stray cat named Pretty Boy has always managed to make it on his own. Hes as vain as they come, and he wont admit to being dependent on anyone. But as he discovers the pleasures of friendship, he learns that home really is where the heart is. Or, at the very least, home is where his friends are. And with friends all around New York City, Pretty Boy will always have a place to call home.
The author and illustrator team who brought us the New York Times bestseller The Christmas Tree introduce an unforgettable animal adventure in the tradition of A Cricket in Times Square and The One and Only Ivan. The result is a story that will captivate readers of all ages with its warmth and wit.
Fans of E.B. White and Dick King-Smith will adore this heartwarming and funny animal adventure by the award-winning author of Counting by 7s
Mama has trained up her baby possums in the ways of their breed, and now its time for all of themeven little Appleblossomto make their way in the world. Appleblossom knows the rules: she must never be seen during the day, and she must avoid cars, humans, and the dreaded hairies (sometimes known as dogs). Even so, Appleblossom decides to spy on a human familyand accidentally falls down their chimney! The curious Appleblossom, her faithful brotherswho launch a hilarious rescue missionand even the little girl in the house have no idea how fascinating the big world can be. But they're about to find out!
With dynamic illustrations, a tight-knit family, and a glimpse at the world from a charming little marsupial's point of view, this cozy animal story is a perfect read-aloud and a classic in the making.
The New York Times bestselling author of I Am A Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to Be Your Class President reinvents the Excalibur legendwith rats!
When Joey is bitten by an elderly rat, he goes from aspiring seventh-grader to three-inch tall rodent.
At first, Joey is amazed by his new rat self. The city streets call to him at night. Smells that would have repelled him before are suddenly tantalizing. (A chicken bone? Yes! A squashed cockroach? Like perfume!) And wow, the freedom! But when a bout of hunger leads Joey to pull the spork from the scone, he finds himself at the center of a longtime rat prophecy.
Joey has unwittingly unlocked the sword Ratscalibur; and now, it is up to him to protect his new rat friends from the evil crows who seek to destroy their peaceful kingdom. But what does an eleven-year-old know about actual swordplay? And what happens when Joey no longer wants to be a rat?
About the Author
George Selden (1929-1989) was the author of The Cricket in Times Square, winner of the 1961 Newbery Honor and a timeless childrens classic. Born in Hartford, Connecticut, Selden received his B.A. from Yale, where he was a member of the Elizabethan Club and contributed to the literary magazine. He spent three summer sessions at Columbia University and, after college, studied for a year in Rome on a Fulbright Scholarship. People often asked Selden how he got the idea for The Cricket in Times Square. “One night I was coming home on the subway, and I did hear a cricket chirp in the Times Square subway station. The story formed in my mind within minutes. An author is very thankful for minutes like those, although they happen all too infrequently.” The popular Cricket series grew to seven titles, including Tucker's Countryside and The Old Meadow. In 1973, The Cricket in Times Square was made into an animated film. Selden wrote more than fifteen books, as well as two plays. His storytelling blends the marvelous with the commonplace realities of life, and it was essential to him that his animal characters display true emotions and feelings. Selden lived in New York City until his death in December 1989. He enjoyed music, archaeology, and J.R.R. Tolkien. His editor, Stephen Roxburgh, said, "Chester Cricket, Harry Cat, Tucker Mouse, and their friends celebrate the triumph of innocence and camaraderie over cynicism and selfishness. George Selden is gone, but his voice lives on in Chester Cricket's song." Garth Williams (1912-1996) illustrated all seven of the Chester Cricket books and many other distinguished works, including Stuart Little, Charlotte's Web, and the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Reading Group Guide
1. Tucker is an observer. He loves to watch the people go by as they rush about the streets of New York City. Tucker is also a listener. George Selden tells us that he “heard almost all the sounds that can be heard.” How well do your students listen? Have them sit still and listen intently. Then they
should make a list of all of the different sounds they heard and identify where each sound came from.
Discuss with your class ways to describe sound. Introduce them to alliteration and onomatopoeia. For each of the sounds on their lists, they should come up with words and phrases that communicate what they heard. Then they should illustrate the sounds they heard.
Here are some examples of onomatopoeia and alliteration:
Traffic: car brakes "screechhhh . . . ,” horns “hhhonk . . . ,” sirens “whiiine”
Weather: the wind whistles, the sun scorches, tornadoes twist
2. See page 7: “It [Chesters noise] was like a quick stroke across the strings of a violin, or like a harp that has been plucked suddenly.” From the very beginning, musical imagery is very important in The Cricket in Times Square. As your students read the book, have them keep a list of the musical words and terms they come across. Include the words and terms they find on your classroom word wall.
3. See Page 13: Mario tries to impress his mother with the usefulness of the cricket by telling her that you can tell the temperature by listening to a crickets chirp by using this formula:
(chirps/minute ÷4) + 40
Mama is not impressed and says, “Bugs carry germs. He [the cricket] doesnt come into the house.”
Mama is right. Bugs can carry germs, but do all bugs carry germs? Do crickets? Your students should do research to find out the answers to these questions and to learn more about crickets.
4. Friendship, loyalty, honesty, family, respect for elders, freedom, and home are themes that can be found in The Cricket in Times Square. Have your students explore these themes in writing, interviews, and group discussions. Here are some specific ideas to get you started:
While Chester is enjoying his time in New York City, he yearns to return to his home in Connecticut. For Tucker and Harry, home is not just a drainpipe in the Time Square subway station, but all of the streets of New York City. All of us have our own concept of home. Have students conduct interviews about what home means. They can interview a relative, a teacher, a student from another class, or one of the characters from The Cricket in Times Square. They should report on their findings and compile a class list identifying the most often mentioned characteristics of what home means.
See Page 48: Freedom
Mario felt good when he bought the cricket cage for Chester, but Chester felt as if he was in jail. When Harry opened the cage for him, he jumped out proclaiming, “Its a relief to be free. Theres nothing like freedom.” We rarely consider how a pet or an animal in the zoo feels about confinement. Conduct a group discussion on the subject of putting animals in cages. What are the pros and what are the cons?
5.The three friends have unique characteristics. Have your students make a chart of them. The chart should include those traits that are particular to each type of animal and those traits that are out of the ordinary. An example of an unusual characteristic is that the animals can understand the humans spoken language.
6. Many of the scenes in The Cricket in Times Square are so vivid it seems as if they are being acted out right in front of you. This makes “Readers Theater” a perfect activity for your class. Pick chapters from the book that have lots of dialogue. Try Chapter 8, “Tuckers Life Savings,” or Chapter 10, “The Dinner Party.” Rewrite the chapter into play form, with stage directions and character speaking parts. Different groups of students can take turns acting out the scenes. They can even make scenery. Be sure to remind them they are acting as a mouse, a cat, or a cricket, and they should adjust their voices and mannerisms accordingly.
7. As your students read The Cricket in Times Square they will notice that life in America was quite different fifty years ago. For example, Mario is allowed to ride the New York City subway all by himself. Can your students imagine that their parents would permit them to do that? Have your students find other examples of how things are different now. Why are they different? Are kids less responsible now? Is it more dangerous now? Do people have different values? What about technology: How has it made the world safer or more dangerous?
8. Chesters musical repertoire includes operatic arias, concertos, popular music, hymns, marches, and folk music. The Bellinis enjoy it all. Use the music scenes to introduce the music that is mentioned in The Cricket in Times Square to your students. Play some of it in the classroom. Have the children close their eyes,the way Papa Bellini does, while they listen. What do your students imagine while listening? They can respond to the music by drawing, painting, or writing. If you do not have musical recordings, check whats available online.
9. Tucker tells Harry and Chester, “New York is a place where the people are willing to pay for talent.” As Chesters manager, it is Tuckers job to promote Chesters performances. What better way to do this than with billboard advertising right in Times Square subway station? Have your students design posters for Chesters next recital at the Bellinis newsstand.
10. The Cricket in Times Square Quiz Show is a great way to test your students knowledge of the book and have fun at the same time. We have provided sixteen questions to start, arranged in order of difficulty. You can change the order, edit the questions, or add your own questions to suit your students needs. Answers to the questions are included, but use your judgment to decide whether a question is answered correctly. We suggest giving the students thirty seconds to write down their answers, but you might want to tailor the timing.
Youll need a supply of 4 x 6 index cards for each student and a timer. Have them stand at their desks ready to write their answers on the cards. Read a question and give the students the allotted time to write down an answer. When time is called, the children hold up their cards with theirs responses. Check the cards. Children with correct answers remain standing. Children with incorrect answers sit down and are out of the quiz. (Be sure to collect unused cards for further use.) Continue with the quiz until there is only one student standing. He/she is the winner.
Quiz Show questions:
1. In what New York City subway station does Tucker live?
2. How did Chester end up in New York City?
3. Why didnt Mama Bellini want Mario to keep a cricket as a pet?
4. In what country were Marios parents born?
5. Why didnt Chester want to blame the missing two-dollar bill on the janitor or a stranger?
6. What is Chesters special talent?
7. What kind of leaf is Chester fond of eating?
8. How did the fire in the newsstand start?
A. Mario was playing with matches.
B. Harry lit a fire to keep warm.
C. Tucker knocked over a box of matches.
9. In what season does the novel take place?
10. Why did Mama Bellini insist that Mario work to pay back the missing two dollars?
A. Hes the one who spent the money.
B. His pet ate the money.
C. Hes the one who lost the money.
11. Where did Mario go to buy a cricket cage?
12. How did Tucker come to Marios rescue?
13. What magazine did Mr. Smedley buy at the newsstand every month?
14. Who put out the fire in the newsstand? How did he know there was a fire?
15. What kind of music does Papa Bellini like to listen to?
16. What song is Mamas Bellinis favorite?
1. Times Square subway station
2. He was trapped in a picnic basket that ended up on a train to Grand Central
3. She thought bugs carry germs.
5. Chester was honest and felt he should take responsibility.
6. Chester can chirp beautiful music.
7. Mulberry leaves
9. C. Tucker knocked over a box of matches.
10. B. His pet ate the money.
12. Tucker used his life savings to help pay back the missing money.
13. Musical America
14. Paul the conductor. He smelled smoke and heard the alarm that Chester made.
15. Italian opera
16. “Come Back to Sorrento”
11. In 1960, Advise and Consent by Allen Drury and Hawaii by James A. Michener were the top-selling books; Psycho and Spartacus were box-office favorites; westerns ruled the television airways with Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, and Have Gun—Will Travel; The Flintstones premiered on television; the Everly Brothers “Cathys Clown” was playing on the radio; Elvis was discharged from the Army; JFK was elected President of the United States; and The Cricket in Times Square was published. Fifty years later, The Cricket in Times Square is still a favorite with young readers. What makes this book a classic? Many of your students parents have read this book when they were children. Have your students talk about it with their parents. Then open up a class discussion
about why they think this book has such lasting powers.