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." --Starred, School Library Journal
"Read by Tony Shalhoub, Selden's story of a clueless insect in New York lights up with the sounds of the city."--People
magazine "Young listeners and their grown-ups will thoroughly enjoy Tony Shalhoub's dramatic reading of The Cricket in Times Square
. His stage voice captures every nuance of emotion is George Selden's 1960 novel about a cricket from Connecticut who winds up in New York City and survives with the help of a friendly mouse and cat. This warm and fuzzy tale hasn't lost a hair of charm in 50 years."--The Sacramento Bee
"With the talents of Tony Shalhoub, Chester Cricket, Harry Cat, and Tucker Mouse become real characters that the listener can instantly relate to.... Mr. Shalhoub creates unique voices for each of the characters, and from the very beginning, it is easy to decipher which character is doing the speaking.... For anyone not familiar with the classic tale, listening to it will be an adventure. And for those that know the sweet tale of Chester finding himself in a foreign land (at least for him), listening to the story will be a treat."--TeensReadToo.com "Shalhoub brings dramatic range to the vocals, moving with grace from comforting to street smart."--Kirkus Reviews
"The fabulous adventures of Chester Cricket, Harry Cat and Tucker Mouse are charmingly detailed by George Selden in his Newbery Honor book...Narrated here by Tony Shaloub, it's guaranteed to please the whole family."--BookPage
“Emmy-winner Shalhoub is nothing short of wonderful. The ease with which he spins different accents adds immeasurable color to the story.” - Cookie Magazine
“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
After Chester lands, in the Times Square subway station, he makes himself comfortable in a nearby newsstand. There, he has the good fortune to make three new friends: Mario, a little boy whose parents run the falling newsstand, Tucker, a fast-talking Broadway mouse, and Tucker's sidekick, Harry the Cat. The escapades of these four friends in bustling New York City makes for lively listening and humorous entertainment. And somehow, they manage to bring a taste of success to the nearly bankrupt newsstand. The Cricket in Times Square is a 1961 Newbery Honor Book.
The comic, sometimes tragic side of life in the city is brought into vivid relief as Chester Cricket and his friends struggle to bring success to their human friends' nearly bankrupt newsstand.
Streetwise city mouse Tucker and his friend Harry Cat show country Chester Cricket around New York City in this charming tale.
A mouse, a cat, and a cricket take a bite out of the Big Apple.
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.