• Happy birthday Eric Kimmel (Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins), Vivian Walsh (Olive, the Other Reindeer), and Rudolfo Anaya (The Farolitos of Christmas).
  • It’s the birth date of Sydney Taylor (1904–1978), All-of-a-Kind Family.
  • On this evening in 1938, Orson Welles narrated a radio broadcast of the story The War of the Worlds, frightening listeners who believed space invaders had landed. Read War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells or Captain Underpants and the Invasion of the Incredibly Naughty Cafeteria Ladies from Outer Space by Dav Pilkey.
  • It’s National Candy Corn Day. Read Candy Corn: Poems by James Stevenson.

More than fifty years ago a down-on-his-luck, New York City playwright who had graduated from Yale wandered into the Times Square subway station late at night and heard a cricket chirp. It reminded him of his childhood in Connecticut when his life had been more optimistic and innocent. Because he knew how to write scenes and create characters as a playwright, he began crafting a book about a little cricket from the country in a big city subway station and the boy who finds him there. The book’s proceeds would lift George Selden out of poverty and despair.

The Cricket in Times Square turns fifty-one this month, although it still seems young to me. To write this funny and intriguing story, Selden drew on what he knew—a love of music, particularly opera, and the longing of city dwellers for the simple country life. Children and adults find themselves falling in love with Selden’s characters—both human and animal. They include Chester, a cricket who adores liverwurst; Mario Bellini and his parents, running an unsuccessful newspaper stand in the Times Square subway; Tucker, an amiable scavenger mouse; and Harry, the warm-hearted cat. Chester arrives in the Times Square subway station from his home in Connecticut via a picnic basket. After Chester befriends Mario, the singing insect uses his operatic talents to bring customers to the newsstand. But in the end, Chester leaves fame, fortune, and the city behind so that he can return to his country home.

Like Charlotte’s Web, the book explores enduring friendships and community between unlikely protagonists. The two books, in fact, often appeal to the same readers. Both were illustrated by Garth Williams, who uses humor to delineate characters through his artwork. Although Williams and Selden were paired by their publisher, they went on to develop a friendship of their own and worked together on sequels such as Tucker’s Countryside and Chester Cricket’s New Home.

We have every reason to be grateful that George Selden took the advice given to him by Noel Coward at a party: “Press on!” Selden did, and today we can celebrate over fifty years of a comic masterpiece for children because he persevered.

Here’s a passage from The Cricket in Times Square:


It was a little insect, about an inch long and covered with dirt. It had six legs, two long antennae on its head and what seemed to be a pair of wings folded on its back. Holding his discovery as carefully as his fingers could, Mario lifted the insect up and rested him in the palm of his hand.

“A cricket!” he exclaimed.


Originally posted October 30, 2010. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Award Winning, Cats, Classical, Insects, Mice, Music, New York, Newbery
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for The Cricket in Times Square


  1. Sarah T says:

    When I was younger, my aunt and I would read aloud to each other before bed, and during the day as a treat if I was sick. Of the many books we read, The Cricket in Times Square was one of my favorites. I loved that there was a fantasy novel set in the city, and I loved that the main character was a cricket even more! After reading this book, there was a stretch of time when I imagined that every cricket I heard was Chester, and every matchbox was someone’s bed.

  2. Connie Currie says:

    I was working as a children’s librarian when this book came out. I read it and instantly loved it. I read bits at story hours, even parts to pre-school. If you met a cricket, would you be kind to him? The book did very well. I still love it’s on book shelf with the other children’s books I can’t be without.

  3. I’m sold!

    Read Aloud Dad

    (PS: Anita, thanks for all these masterpieces! You are changing the lives of my twins)

  4. G. Perry says:

    Ok. Listen up. Anita doesn’t toot her own horn on this site much, so I will.

    Today is a BIG day for Lady Anita. Her new book Book “Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac” is released for sale TODAY! October 30th 2012. Both my library and book stores have it in, or coming.

    She covers an important child’s book each day of the year with delightful background information about the book and its authors and artists Just like you read here!

    You want this for yourself, your children, your school, your library.

    My copy will be on my night table and along with A Child’s Garden of Versus, and a few others. My night table is sacred ground for my mind. Few books get a place there.Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac will be on that table now.

    You want your children to change the world for better? Use the book, Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac and the books therein on them, and then watch their future. You send a reader into the world, and you’ve done something extraordinary for all humanity, and those to come. What a legacy.

    Stop reading this and go buy Anita’s book. Go-go-go-go-go. Get it, give it, share it, praise it.

    365 gifts to the reader for the whole year.Christmas is coming you know, and boy, if I got this for Christmas the giver would get a bear hug!

  5. G. Perry says:

    Now then, I loved The Cricket in Times Square so much I had to own it.

    Did I say to buy the new book just released today by Anita Silvey, Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac?
    Oh yes. I think I did… Grin.

  6. Anita says:

    Thank you for your support, Gordon, for the book and on the site.

  7. Helen Frost says:

    Congratulations on the publication of your book, Anita! What a labor of love.

  8. Anita says:

    Helen: Thank you. And thanks for all your support during the last two years.

  9. Congrats on the publication of your book–I can’t wait to see it, as I love all your selections. I had the pleasure of reading Cricket in Times Square to my son earlier this year (one of these days I’ll get around to blogging about it!) and fell in love with it all over again. But the greatest joy was discovering all the sequels, which I don’t recall knowing anything about as a kid. One is better than the next! Seriously, the lyricism of Selden’s writing, matched with the entertainment value of the different characters (the voices are so fun to do), is so rare and so compelling. Such great introduction to literature for children. :)

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