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Barbara Carroll Roberts (Children's Literature)
A classic Newbery Honor Book first published in 1960, this quiet story of friendship and loyalty continues to charm young readers, particularly those who love animals. This is a quiet tale: Chester Cricket, Tucker Mouse, and Harry Cat meet at the Bellini’s newsstand in New York’s Times Square subway station when young Mario Bellini finds the cricket in a pile of trash. The lonely boy decides to keep Chester as a pet, and a series of adventures ensue. Action-and-adventure fans may have a difficult time with the leisurely pace and low-key action of this book, but its loving portrait of real friendship continues to make it a classroom favorite with fourth and fifth graders. Modern parents and teachers may want to take a close look at Seldon’s portrayal of Sai Fong, the elderly Chinese man who gives Mario a cricket cage. In 1960 racial stereotypes were still common in American literature, and Sai Fong certainly falls into this category. There’s nothing ugly here--on the contrary, Sai Fong could not be more lovingly drawn--but his giggling and fractured-English may give offense, nonetheless. Certainly this is an aspect of the book that adults would want to discuss with young readers. Part of the “Chester Cricket” series. 2006 (orig. 1960), Yearling/Random House Children’s Books, $6.50 and $16.00. Ages 8 to 12.
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