Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Cricket in Times Square, by George Selden

I was always a huge fan of this story.  It was assigned to my class when I was roughly in the 2nd grade and for being more than 20 years old, I still stood up then and probably does today just as well.  I asked a well-read friend for suggestions on what to read next from the list (going forward from start to finish was starting to feel a bit punishing) and this was her suggestion.  Hooray!  At some point I know I read a few of the sequels as well, but they're not remotely memorable to me.  This was the good one.

Chester the cricket has lived a happy life in the meadows of Connecticut.  He loves his home in an old tree stump.  He knows the local animals and the landscape- even the signs that mark the changing seasons.  But he's about to get a taste of another life.

One lovely warm day, his field is descended upon by picnickers.  Unable to resist the aroma of the leftovers, Chester jumps into a basket and helps himself.  But during his post-meal nap, he's buried under leftover sandwiches and carried away on a subway train back to New York City.

Lost and alone, Chester makes a few tentative chirps and is discovered by Mario, a young boy working the late shift in his family's newspaper kiosk.  His mother has reservations, but his father gives him permission to keep Chester, provided he stays in the newspaper stand and doesn't come home.  At night, two of the station's residents come calling to introduce themselves: Tucker the mouse and Harry the cat.  Long-time friends, they quickly adopt Chester into their group and teach him about life in the station.

During their late-night visits to the station, Tucker and Harry quickly learn that Chester has an amazing ear for music.  They teach him a number of popular songs from the radio, as well as classical pieces.  As Chester begins to play these for Mario and his family in the daytime, an astonished crowd begins to gather.  Over time, Chester becomes quite the attraction and the Bellini family's small newspaper stand finally begins to turn a nice profit!  But Chester is shy.  He doesn't like being poked at and stared at.  And as the air cools he misses his meadow and the changes Autumn brings.  It's time for Chester to decide to unhappily remain where life has landed him, or to choose his own path home.

For those of you familiar with the titles of the sequels, the end result is no mystery!

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