The Cricket in Times Square

My friend Pam passed this book on to me because she thought it looked like the kind of book I like, ie old. The Cricket in Times Square was a Newbery Award winner in 1961, so it's even older than I am! As I read, dim memories returned -- I think I did read this in Mt Hagen, but only once.

This is a sweet story, whose charm is enhanced by the Garth Williams illustrations (Little House on the Prairie for me will always look the way Williams drew it, just as Narnia will be forever filtered through the vision of Pauline Baynes). However, the charm is marred by a couple of chapters where Mario meets a pair of venerable Chinese gentlemen who sell him a pavilion for his cricket. The characters themselves are treated with respect by the text, but sadly there are pages and pages of dialogue where they speak in supposed Chinese accents ('Velly solly' etc) which these days reads as horribly racist. Perhaps newer editions of the book have had this dialogue altered; it would be easy enough to do, and it would make me feel much more comfortable about sharing this otherwise lovely story.

My favourite scene comes towards the end of the book, where Chester the cricket plays music which drifts up out of the subway and onto the street, and a section of the city falls still to listen. Just gorgeous.


  1. This was one of my childhood reads and rereads - that front cover is so evocative! It's a pity about the dialogue - I hate any sort of accent written down phonetically in books even when it's not racist, but when I was young there was an awful lot of that sort of thing. Arthur Ransome's Missee Lee is another one.

  2. Funny, my eye was caught by my own copy of Missee Lee on the shelf this morning as I was putting away The Cricket in Times Square, and I thought exactly the same thing! I used to love Missee Lee (less than the other Swallows and Amazons books I must admit) but I don't think I could re-read it now.