Lizzie's Reviews > The Cricket in Times Square

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
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Mar 01, 2010

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bookshelves: 2010, children-s, nyc, reread, used-book, talking-animals, gave-away-or-left-behind
Read from December 15 to 18, 2010

Really glad to give this a reread. I read it in grade school, far away from NYC, long before I thought of living here. (Tangentially, I bought this copy at Half Price Books near Iowa City.) I know that absolutely none of the details of New York came through for me then, because they were entirely outside my frame of reference, so I was really curious about them now.

Well, 4 stars for the New Yorkiness! It really does a great job, and feels really accurate. A lot of the environment is completely recognizable, like the area in the Times Square subway station where Mario's family's newsstand is -- on the pedestrian level where the shuttle train is. And just as many things in the environment feel true but are long gone, like the same area of the station being filled with lunch counters (Nedick's is named) and "soda jerks". There's a fantastic illustration on p.33 of the scene where Harry the cat and Tucker the mouse (BFFs) bring Chester the cricket outside to see 42nd Street, and you can tell that that's accurate too. Ladies in hats and dresses, a big Chevrolet sign atop the crossroads, and the Hotel Astor, which I'd never even heard of, but there you go. (Sidebar for you other City History Clubbers, more exterior pictures from 1904-1967, and a super Time Magazine story not really about the hotel but whatever.)

The story itself of Chester and his music is nice. It's cute when you have animal characters that know all about humans and understand what they say, but of course we humans can't do the same. It wasn't an extraordinarily gripping story, but Chester is sweet. But my favorite parts were when he and Mario played games or went somewhere together, so more about their friendship would've probably helped me care more about the outcome of the plot. Mario's family is pretty nice, and I like that they're immigrants. (Acceptably white, European immigrants, but all the same.)

Because, I have to deduct major points for the entirely unfortunate Chinatown plotline, in which Mario learns that crickets are "sacred" in China and so finds a Chinese person who of course knows everything about crickets -- um, "clickets" -- and wants to give an unlimited number of free things to a random child, and acts like a crazy person a lot. The mispronunciation of Sai Fong's "accent" is just so overboard and not at all how a Chinese person has ever sounded. And at one point, speaking Chinese is described as sounding "like the cheerful clicking of hundreds of chopsticks." It... what? No. It did not. Sadly, cutesy racism dates this story in a much less nostalgic way.

Harry the cat is totally the breakout character for me here, anyway. He knows everything about New York and goes everywhere through tunnels and pipes and under parked cars. He can get you to your train in Grand Central or take in an opera at the Met. I confess to being 100% interested in the sequel and the prequel about him. Thumbs up.
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01/21 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Meg (new)

Meg GOOD THINKING YES


message 2: by Sue (new) - added it

Sue I liked your review, and I plan to read it for the NYC references and descriptions -- well, and for the cat. (-: (NYC is now my "home away from home.")


Lulu I absolutely love New York! I guess I sort of have a romanticized version of it (too much Friends television show and other movies, esp. chick flicks that take place in New York) but still, I really would pick this book up from Half Price or something!


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