October 3, 2010

Crickets and Sweaters

The title pretty much says it all.  A cricket, Chester, from the country accidentally finds himself transported via picnic basket to Times Square in NYC.  He finds companions in a mouse and cat who are friends.  They hang out in a struggling newsstand and help out the family that owns it when Chester reveals a hidden talent.

The Garth Williams illustrations are, of course, perfect and really make this.  Apparently "George Selden" went on to write many sequels. (When he wasn't writing about bisexual sado-masochism--you just never can tell!)

Man, Margaret Peterson Haddix sure has a range!  She writes YA, middle readers and these easier chapter books for younger readers.  This one is kind of a riff on The Hundred Dresses.  Janie's Dad is out of work due to an injury.  Her mom is picking up extra hours at her job but is dismayed to find out what a sorry state Janie's public school is in.  Since mom is an excellent knitter, she spends the next year knitting beautiful sweaters with other girls' names on them to sell in a boutique.  When enough money is raised, the family moves into an apartment in a nicer school district.

Janie does well academically, but notices how worn and ill-fitting her own clothes are in this new "richer" school.  When the boutique stops selling her mother's sweaters, Janie begins wearing them to school.  She tells the other kids that "Maybe she has more than one middle name."  It's well-written and deals with a topic, economics, that is rarely dealt with well in children's literature.  I can think of the Hundred Dresses and A Chair for my Mother.  I'm sure there are more, but those are the only two coming to mind at the moment.

The ending is a bit pat, but hey, it's for 2nd and 3rd graders, they love pat endings.  Would make a good read aloud for discussion and great for any "new kid at school" issues.

The Cricket in Times Square (Chester Cricket and His Friends)

The Girl With 500 Middle Names

The Hundred Dresses

A Chair for My Mother 25th Anniversary Edition (Reading Rainbow Book)