The Cricket in Times Square

The Cricket in Times Square cover

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Book Review

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden is about how Chester Cricket’s musical gifts earn him instant fame at Grand Central Station.

Plot Summary

Mario Bellini is a young boy who helps his parents, Mama and Papa Bellini, run their Grand Central Station newsstand. A mouse named Tucker and his best friend, a cat named Harry, live near the newsstand. Mario is surprised one day by the sound of a cricket chirping. He pulls the cricket from under a stack of paper, cleans it off and asks his parents if he can keep it as a pet. Mama reluctantly agrees, as long as the cricket remains at the newsstand.

The cricket, Chester, meets Tucker and Harry that night. He tells them he comes from Connecticut, where he got stuck in a picnic basket and carried by train to New York City. Chester’s melodious chirping impresses customers like music teacher Mr. Smedley.

Mario goes to Chinatown to find Chester a cage, and a shopkeeper named Sai Fong gives him an impressive one for almost nothing. Since Chester doesn’t like being locked in the fancy structure, he allows the delighted Tucker to sleep there.

One night while dreaming, Chester accidentally eats a $2 bill from the cash register. Mama orders Mario to keep him locked in his cage until the money is paid back. Tucker reluctantly offers Chester his stash of coins, which they leave for the Bellinis to find. With the debt paid, Chester regains his freedom.

Mario worries Chester isn’t eating well and takes the cricket to Sai Fong. Sai Fong and his gentleman guest share their sumptuous Chinese dinner with Mario and Chester. Sai Fong gives Mario mulberry leaves to feed the cricket in the future.

Chester accidentally starts a fire in the newsstand a few months later. The damage is minimal, but Mama demands Mario get rid of his pet. Chester begins to chirp, and the Mama begins to sing along with him. Awed by his talent, she allows him to stay.

Chester begins to chirp songs he hears on the radio, and the Bellinis advertise his twice-daily concerts at the newsstand. Crowds flock to the stand. People stick their fingers in Chester’s cage and try to take his things as souvenirs. The cricket becomes more and more homesick for his life of freedom, so Tucker and Harry help him catch a train back to Connecticut. Mario misses his pet but believes Chester is happier now. Tucker and Harry consider taking a trip to visit Chester in the future.

Christian Beliefs

Chester chirps “Rock of Ages,” “Onward Christian Soldiers” and other hymns.

Other Belief Systems

Sai Fong tells the story of a man named Hsi Shuai who knew the thoughts, desires and destiny of men, animals, plants and the heavenly bodies. He only spoke truth and was loved by the high gods who lived in the palace at the summit of heaven. The gods changed Hsi Shuai into a cricket to save him from the murderous plans of evil men. Mr. Smedley likens Chester to the mythological god Orpheus.

Authority Roles

Mario’s father is a pleasant, hard-working salesman at the family’s Grand Central Station newsstand. Mario’s mother initially tries to get rid of Chester until she discovers his musical gifts. Mr. Smedley and Sai Fong both recognizes Chester is special and encourage Mario to nurture him.

Profanity & Violence

None

Sexual Content

None

Discussion Topics

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

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