This year one of my reading themes is to rediscover some favorite children's books. I want to know what I think about them, find out the good ones, and re-live the old ones. Children's books are so important for shaping young minds, and I am admittedly out of touch. Frances Hodgeson Burnett is one I'm especially keen to read and evaluate again.
Last week was the perfect time to start. After some in-depth books I felt in need of something both rated G and a little more relaxing to rest my mind. The Cricket In Times Square immediately presented itself, and that was the perfect choice to start my rediscovery of Children's Classics.
If you love Wind in the Willows or Winnie the Pooh, you will most assuredly love The Cricket in Times Square.
After Chester, a cricket, arrives in the Times Square subway station via a picnic basket from his native Connecticut, he takes up residence in the Bellinis' newsstand. There, the tiny creature is lucky enough to find three good friends—a little boy named Mario whose parents run the unsuccessful newsstand, a fast-talking Broadway mouse named Tucker and his Pal, Harry the Cat. Throughout their escapades and their ups and downs in New York City, together they somehow manage to bring success to the almost bankrupt newsstand
Our edition of The Cricket in Times Square is a frail old paperback. The kind you hold carefully and hope the cover will stay on for at least one more reading (behold, it did.) As soon as I cracked the cover and started reading, all the old memories washed back. I adore these animals. I adore them even more for the fact that the mark of a good story is one that can be enjoyed by all ages. Madeleine L'Engle, in Walking on Water, explains that children's stories should not be written down to children, but written as something the author himself enjoys. I don't know without asking, but in reading this book, I feel like George Selden very heartily enjoyed and entered into the story as he wrote it. It shows, because The Cricket in Times Square, while suitable for children, is timeless and ageless in its appeal.
EPA's Top 100 Authors says about George Seldon, "It was essential to him that his animal characters display true emotions and feelings with which readers can identify." I can easily see that--Chester's homesickness for the countryside of Connecticut, Tucker's laugh-out-loud humor, and the friendship that exists between Chester Cricket, Harry Cat, and Tucker Mouse, are treated as if they are real and true. They resonate deeply with the reader. The ending tugs at your heartstrings while being perfectly satisfactory. They aren't so much children's emotions as they are human emotions. And that's why, all these years later, they mean the same and even more to me than they did when I was small.
Not only are the characters endearing, but with the added perspective of time and writing study, the plotting is also tight, with good structure. I also love the city setting. It makes me happy to think of a bunch of animal friends living in a drain pipe and collecting things to stash. ;)
Our edition has Garth Williams illustrations. The Cricket in Times Square shouldn't be read without them. He brings the same charm to these furry city friends as he does to Little House on the Prairie and the Little Golden Books (The Sailor Dog or The Kitten Who Thought He Was a Mouse, anyone?) While it's been a while since I've read them, you might also recognize his name from Charlotte's Web or The Trumpet of the Swan.
Altogether, my first foray back into children's literature was an absolute success. I'm looking forward to more and highly recommend this enchanting tale of three unlikely friends who share a charming adventure.
Have you read Cricket? Do you like Garth Williams illustrations? I'd love to know!