cover image OLD CRICKET


Lisa Wheeler, , illus. by Ponder Goembel. . Atheneum/Jackson, $16.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-84510-9

The team responsible for Sailor Moo returns with a homespun trickster tale enhanced by sprightly humor and ace draftsmanship. Old Cricket, whom Goembel depicts as a handsome fellow with a shiny black exoskeleton, isn't in the mood to help his wife by fixing the roof, and tries malingering instead. "Consarn it!" he says, "I woke with a creak in my knee, dear wife." He promises to visit the doctor, and the narrator adds, sotto voce, "You don't get to be an old cricket by being a dumb bug." The more folks ask for the fellow's help, the more his maladies multiply. By the time Old Cricket meets Old Crow, who eyes him as lunch, he's up to "a creak in my knee, a crick in my neck, a crack in my back, and a hic-hic-hiccup in my head." A fast-paced chase ensues, in which Old Cricket dodges the crow but acquires all of the maladies of which he complains. The artwork keeps readers at the hero's eye level: a red baseball cap rests on the twig bedpost of the crickets' comfy bed and sunlight shines through a hole in their leafy rooftop; outside, corn stalks rise up like sequoias. Old Cricket's only too glad to help with the roof when he finally returns home to his wife, and she knows it: " 'Cause you don't get to be an old missus by being a dumb bug." Smartly paced and skillfully drawn, this tale delivers a gentle comeuppance sure to please smart young bugs. Ages 3-6. (May)