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The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden

Teacher Guide by Ashley Trudeau

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Student Activities for The Cricket in Times Square Include:

The Cricket in Times Square, by George Selden, is a timeless classic that will entice young learners. This Newbery Honor Book tells the tale of Chester Cricket’s adventures in New York and jump to stardom.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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A Quick Synopsis of The Cricket in Times Square (Contains Spoilers)

The story opens with a young boy, named Mario Bellini, working the night shift at his family’s struggling newsstand, down in a subway station. While he is trying to sell magazines and old papers to commuters, he hears a strange noise, a chirping sound. It is a sound that does not belong down in the subway, or even in New York City. Mario follows the sound and finds a small cricket. He decides, after some pleading with his mother, that the cricket will be his new pet and live in the newsstand, in a tiny matchbox.

After Mario leaves for the evening, the cricket, whose name is Chester, pokes his head out of the matchbox to take a look around. He meets his first friend, a city mouse, named Tucker. The mouse wants to know all about how this tiny cricket ended up in New York, so he scurries back to his drain pipe home, grabs some food for the both of them, and settles down to hear Chester’s tale. It turns out that Chester is from the countryside, in Connecticut, and one day he jumped into a family’s picnic basket for a small snack. He ended up becoming trapped in this basket and transported to New York. He was able to get out of the basket at the subway station in Times Square and has been hiding in the corner for a couple days, as he was scared of this loud and busy new environment.

After telling his story Chester notices a large shadow over Tucker. Seeing it belongs to a cat, he tries to warn his new friend. Tucker laughs and introduces the cat as his best friend, Harry. Chester has never seen a cat and a mouse be friends before, at least not in the countryside. The two friends decide to take Chester for a tour of Times Square. Chester is overwhelmed by all the lights and people hurrying around, but thinks it is quite a sight to behold.

The next morning, Mario returns to the newsstand and is happy to see his cricket has not left. He asks his father if he can travel to Chinatown in order to find a house for Chester, a special cage made just for a cricket. Once they arrive, they find an old shop that is open and are introduced to a Chinese man, Sai Fong. The Chinese man does indeed have a cage for Chester and tells Mario the story of the very first cricket and why they are such lucky and special insects.

That evening, Chester lets Tucker Mouse sleep in the cricket cage, as he is more comfortable in his matchbox home. While Chester is dreaming, he accidentally ends up eating half of a two-dollar bill from the register of the newsstand. Mama Bellini is very angry about this and Chester has to stay locked in his cage until Mario can pay back the money he ate. Tucker Mouse, rather reluctantly, tells Chester that he has the money to pay back the newsstand in his life savings. Mama Bellini is shocked the next morning to find Chester Cricket sitting in his cage on top of enough coins to pay back his two-dollar mistake.

Mario realizes that his cricket must need something special to eat, since he tried to eat the dollar bill, so he travels back to see Sai Fong in Chinatown. There he meets Sai Fong’s friend, an old Chinese man. Together they share their Chinese feast with Mario and Chester, and then tell Mario that what Chester Cricket needs is mulberry leaves. The two Chinese men give Mario some of the leaves for Chester and in return Chester sings for them, making music with his wings.

On the two-month anniversary of Chester arriving in New York, he decides to throw a dinner party at the newsstand with Tucker and Harry. All is going well: good food, great company, and some music from both the radio and Chester Cricket. Unfortunately, Tucker Mouse trips while he is dancing and falls onto a box of matches. One of the matches strikes right next to a pile of newspapers, and soon the whole stand was going up in flames. Chester Cricket is able to jump onto the alarm clock inside the stand and helps alert some people down in the subway station, and they are able to put out the fire. Mama Bellini is very upset, thinks they will now be ruined, blames this all on Chester, and tells Mario that he has to go. Chester Cricket decides to sing his sadness, and Mama Bellini is overcome with emotion at the beautiful singing that she decides the cricket can stay a while longer.

Tucker Mouse comes up with an idea after seeing how moved Mama was with Chester’s singing that the cricket should learn all sorts of songs and play them for the public. Chester’s first audience is Mr. Smedley, a music teacher and the Bellini’s best customer. He is so in love with Chester’s performance that he writes a letter to the New York Times urging everyone to come and listen to this cricket’s shows. The letter has the desired effect, and crowds of people come to hear Chester every day. This is very beneficial to the Bellini’s newsstand, and they begin to sell many magazines and papers each day.

Chester Cricket realizes that he is no longer happy in New York and wants to return to his home in Connecticut. Chester plays one last show for the people of New York and that evening he is able to have some time alone with just Mario, eating dinner and playing some games. When Mario falls asleep Chester leaves the newsstand to meet up with Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat. The three of them journey to the train that will take Chester back home to the countryside. After saying their goodbyes and watching the train and their cricket friend disappear, the mouse and cat return to their drainpipe, both sad that their friend has left.

When the Bellini’s realize that Chester is gone, Mario is glad because he knows his cricket has gone back to his home and will be happy there. The story ends with Tucker asking Harry if they can go and visit the country next summer to visit Chester. Who knows what adventures lie ahead of them?


Essential Questions for The Cricket in Times Square

  1. What influence did Chester have on the Bellini’s, Tucker, and Harry?
  2. Is it okay to miss home? Is it okay to want to adventure somewhere new?
  3. How is friendship important in this story?

The Cricket in Times Square Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Identifying Themes

Several themes are present in the novel. Students can pick a theme to explore and should support their choice with specific details or events from the text. One prominent theme is friendship. Chester, Tucker Mouse, and Harry Cat surprisingly become friends, as well as Chester and Mario.

An example is:

  • Even though he was reluctant to do it, Tucker used most of his savings to help Chester when Chester accidentally ate the Bellini's $2 bill.

Other themes that can be explored are: loyalty, honesty, family, respect for elders, freedom, and home.

The Cricket in Times Square - Theme

Example

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The Cricket in Times Square Vocabulary Lesson Plan


Copy Assignment



A great way to engage your students is by creating a storyboard that uses vocabulary from The Cricket in Times Square.

In this activity, students demonstrate their understanding of vocabulary words using sentences and corresponding images. Students may be provided the vocabulary words, or they can use words that they have discovered through their reading of the text. The sentences and images validate their understanding of the word and the context that it was used in the story.

Here is a list of a few vocabulary words commonly taught with the story and an example of a visual vocabulary board.

The Cricket in Times Square Vocabulary

  • billow
  • ruined
  • praise
  • scornfully
  • cautiously
  • eavesdrop
  • dart
  • munch
  • explore
  • whisper
  • peer
  • peculiar
  • refuse
  • anxiously
  • entomologist
  • recital
  • jinx
  • dwindled
  • salvage
  • meekly
  • reproaches
  • melancholy
  • stout

The Cricket in Times Square - Vocabulary

Example

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)


Student Instructions

Demonstrate your understanding of the vocabulary words in The Cricket in Times Square by creating visualizations.


  1. Choose three vocabulary words from the story and type them in the title boxes.
  2. Find the definition in a print or online dictionary.
  3. Write a sentence that uses the vocabulary word.
  4. Illustrate the meaning of the word in the cell using a combination of scenes, characters, and items.
    • Alternatively, use Photos for Class to show the meaning of the words with the search bar.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.



Vocabulary Template Blank

Example

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)





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Sequence of Events

An exceptional way for your students follow a story is for them to track the events from it. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of a plot, it also reinforces major events, which helps students develop better understanding of how the events fit together to provide the overall structure of the story.

An example is:

  • Event One: Mario discovers Chester and keeps him as a pet. Chester, Tucker Mouse, and Harry Cat start an unlikely friendship.
The Cricket in Times Square - Sequence of Main Events

Example

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Creating a Character Map

As students read, a storyboard can serve as a helpful character reference log. This log (also called a character map) allows students to recall relevant information about important characters. With character mapping, students will record this information, helping them follow along and catch the subtleties, which make reading more enjoyable!

You can click on this map and create a copy on your teacher account. Feel free to use it as is, or to edit it for the level of your class. Printing it as worksheets for your students to complete while reading is a fast and easy way to incorporate this character map into your classroom.

Here is an example for Tucker Mouse:

  • Physical Appearance:
    • mouse
  • Character Traits:
    • resourceful
    • "scrounger"
    • outgoing
    • friendly
  • Evidence:
    • "And when he wasn't collecting, "scrounging" as he called it, or sleeping, he liked to sit at the opening of the drain pipe and watch the world go by."
The Cricket in Times Square - Character Map

Example

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Cricket Facts

Storyboards are great for research purposes. Students can explore crickets and compile research about the insects. They can find information using textual evidence, the internet, or in other books. Then they can add the research they compiled into the cells and use our site, Photos For Class, to find safe, real images of crickets to help spruce up their storyboard.

Here is an example:

  • Crickets can be black, red, brown, or green in color.
  • Crickets have one pair of one-inch long antennas, called feelers. Antennas can detect movement of the prey and facilitate finding of food.
  • Even though crickets have wings, they do not fly. Crickets can jump or travel short distances by producing jerky moves.
The Cricket in Times Square - Cricket Facts

Example

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Comparing and Contrasting of Settings

There are two settings in the story. New York, where most the events of the story take place (Times Square and Chinatown), and Connecticut, where Chester is from.

In this activity, students will use information from the text to compare and contrast the two settings

Here is an example:

  • New York: "The sight was too terrible and beautiful for a cricket who up to now had measured high things by the height of his willow tree and sounds by the burble of a running brook."
  • Connecticut: "I lived inside an old tree stump, next to a willow tree, and I often go up to the roof to look around. On the other side of the stump from the willow tree there's a brook that runs past.."
The Cricket in Times Square - Setting Compare/Contrast

Example

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•   (English) The Cricket in Times Square   •   (Español) El Cricket en Times Square   •   (Français) Le Cricket à Times Square   •   (Deutsch) Das Kricket auf dem Times Square   •   (Italiana) Il Cricket in Times Square   •   (Nederlands) De Cricket in Times Square   •   (Português) The Cricket em Times Square   •   (עברית) הקריקט בטיימס סקוור   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) الكريكيت في تايمز سكوير   •   (हिन्दी) टाइम्स स्क्वायर में क्रिकेट   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Крикет на Таймс-сквер   •   (Dansk) Cricket i Times Square   •   (Svenska) Cricket i Times Square   •   (Suomi) Cricket Times Square   •   (Norsk) Cricket på Times Square   •   (Türkçe) Times Meydanı'ndaki Kriket   •   (Polski) Krykiet w Times Square   •   (Româna) Greierele în Times Square   •   (Ceština) Cricket na Times Square