Allison's Book Bag

Two More in The Cricket Series by George Seldon

Posted on: June 2, 2014

This is my second week to review books in the Chester Cricket series by George Selden. When my cat Lucy took sick back in December of 2013, I pulled the set from my shelves to read aloud during her convalescence. Although she never recovered, our family’s three current pets have been treated to hearing the whole series which we have now just finished.

Harry Cat’s Pet Puppy is a bittersweet adventure about beloved characters Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat who try to find a home for a dog. Along the way, they meet a cocky bird, arrogant cat, and an unsavory dog. Oh, and a piano teacher whom every argues about as to whether he needs a companion. Although Seldon handles all of fiction’s literary elements well, setting is the feature which I wish to highlight about Harry Cat’s Pet Puppy.

True, New York City has long been a common setting in books both for young people. Indeed, Wikipedia lists at least one hundred of them. Despite being are among the earliest listed then, the setting of New York City itself then isn’t terribly unique. However, Selden does well enough it that I want to give him credit.

First, Selden vividly portrays areas of New York City which you might not find in other books. There are subways and drainpipes. This is where Tucker and Harry live. It’s also where they take care of a stray puppy, until Huppy grows too big to fit. There are alleys, which make a terrifying place to meet a gang of dogs. Yet what other resort do a mouse and a cat have when they can no longer take care of the puppy they love? And finally in the uptown side of New York City, there are all those big old buildings. In one of them lives Mr. Smedly, the piano teacher whom Tucker and Harry hope will want a dog.

Second, Selden effectively describes the contrasting aspects of New York City, which an outsider might not appreciate. There’s the more hectic side, where it’s darn difficult to protect a frightened puppy: “Lights blinking outside movie theaters, cars coming and going, brakes screeching, horns honking, and the crush of restless human beings.” There’s also the wetter side, in which an outcast puppy could get cold: “A cold gray rain, which would have been snow if the temperature was a little lower….” At the same time, Selden moves beyond the stereotype to paint a picture of the more calmer side, where a confident puppy might romp and try to endear a certain piano teacher to consider him: “On a pleasant day, Bryant Park can be a truly beautiful, natural place. A living rectangle of grass and trees….”

My rating? Read it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

Chester Cricket’s Home is a whimsical but more uneven tale about another beloved character, that of Chester Cricket. The plot of how Chester needs to find a new home after two oversized women sit on his stump and destroy it feels overly long for its nearly one-hundred and fifty pages. Selden seems to have written at least three books which I don’t have about his beloved Times Square characters but, from what I can find out about them, they all seem to fit the picture book criteria. Personally, I think Selden might have been wiser to have made this choice here too.

One of those picture books is about Tucker and Harry, but the others like Chester Cricket’s Home are about Chester. While I enjoyed Chester in A Cricket in Times Square and Tucker’s Countryside that might have been due to his being only one of three significant characters. In this standalone book about him, Chester too often comes off as stodgy and whiny for me to like him. Actually, most of the characters which were earlier introduced in Tucker’s Countryside feel generous in their offer of a place to stay but also somewhat unpleasant. Only Simon Turtle and new zany friend Walter Water Snake make me smile.

As for setting, Connecticut has undoubtedly been the locale of young people’s fiction, but not to the extent that anyone has compiled one at Wikipedia. 🙂 In that way, Connecticut then could be considered a rather unique setting, and that is a plus for Chester Cricket’s Home. Selden also does an excellent job at describing the countryside. Well enough that I often think Connecticut would be a nice place to live. Yet setting alone can’t save a story. Chester Cricket’s Home certainly shouldn’t be the book you start with in the series. However, if you’ve read the rest of the series, you might as well as check it out.

My rating? Leave it: Don’t even take it off the shelves. Not recommended.

How would you rate this book?

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