Amy's Reviews > Cricket Man

Cricket Man by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
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's review
May 17, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: favorites

It has been many years since I first read this book, but the impression has lasted. I was young, barely out of middle school when I first read it, and yet the message hasn't really changed now that I'm older.
I came across some of my initial attempts to put my thoughts into a "review". Perhaps it will make sense, perhpas not. I know a lot of this is repeating myself, but perhaps that will get the point across.

There are a few things more appealing than a good story, and one that appeals to pre-teens, teenagers and adults is really an accomplishment, especially in the dumb-downed culture teenagers are exposed to in their reading. But Phyllis Reynolds Naylor seems to have it down pretty well after having written a 135 books and it should be no surprise that her latest book, “Cricket Man” is any different.
Yet somehow it is.
Kenny Sykes is entering eight grade this year: a new school, a new house, and new friends. He doesn’t have much by way of expectations, just getting through middle school without sticking out. Saving the suicidal crickets that jumped into their pool wasn’t something he talked about at school. It was almost a fantasy…where he played god, savior of the helpless insects. Just something between his little brother and him…skateboarding and school is a totally different world. Saving the crickets turns into saving a bunch of other little things too: bugs, baby bunnies and chipmunks…and then suddenly the high-school girl next door.
Jodie Poindexter is a junior in high-school- poised, popular and loved by all…except suddenly her boyfriend isn’t coming around anymore. In fact, no one seems to be. Kenny notices her sitting on the roof at night…her head in her hands. And that’s when he decides she needs a Cricket Man.
And so an unlikely friendship begins.
A wonderful book written in the first person, Naylor has truly written a masterpiece.
Some may say Kenny Sykes is on a mission.
Others may say he is just trying to survive high-school.

Readers may roll their eyes at the almost comical and frustrating relationship Kenny has with his older sister, but there is nothing lame in the wonderful relationship he shares with his little brother. Unlike the typical older-brother rather die than babysit little bro, this book tells of an encouraging relationship- with loyalty and trust.
The book isn’t about any one subject. It’s about him being the Cricket Man, yeah. Saving crickets. It’s about school, about relationships. About the confusing girl across the street. It’s a great book.
The ending is a bit of a shocker, and if anything that is the reason I really wouldn’t recommend it to anyone not in middle school, high-school or older.
There is some queer drinking scenes, where pour stuff in their soda. It’s really weird and doesn’t seem to fit with the characters, especially when one of the boys drinks so much he gets sick. It’s played down and rather strange. Perhaps because that is the way life is sometimes.
If there is one thing that most books for teenagers have in common these days is that they’re all junk. Worthless. Pointless. But this book isn’t.

More of the same old stuff.
It wasn’t the first time, and certainly won’t be the last time that I walked through our teenage-reading section at the library and felt myself want to throw up. There was your typical cliché novels where teenage girls struggle with boyfriends and being popular, your action packed adventures that led no-where and left one with an impression of gut-wrenching disgust, the feel-good book about some poor immigrant kid coming to America. The “historical novel” that spoke of one injustice or another. Nothing to deep though. Nothing that made you think.
I’d seen it all before.
At first glance then, The Cricket Man by Phyllis Henry Naylor is more of the usual. Not quite two hundred pages long, my initial reaction that it was more of the same stuff was swiftly proven wrong. Quite wrong.

Finding a fascinating, thoughtful fiction book in the teen section that leaves you with something to think about? Good luck. Especially when it comes to finding a books in our teen library, it’s nearly impossible. Maybe that is why “The Cricket Man” sticks out. Or doesn’t stick out…until you pick it up and start reading. It’s a treasure-chest full of wealth to the starving reader who is looking for something a bit deeper then thin relationships and fanatical adventures. It’s something that could happen to anyone. Even you.

See a theme? I sure do. I am pleased to announce that since I wrote that, I have found other books. Unwind for one. But this was one of the first books to give me hope. I do, though, make one last comment. You'll get a different impression depending on your age. For Middle schoolers, this might be their world. For an adult, its as foreign as China. BUT, its insight into kids that age.
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