You are about to read an excerpt from a book A Cricket in Times Square. This book is fantasy. Tucker Mouse lives in a Times Square subway station in New York City. One day while Tucker is scrounging, he hears an unfamiliar sound. Upon investigation, he finds Chester the cricket. From this introduction to “Chester,” what questions do you have?
You may find answers to some of your questions in the excerpt. Hopefully you will think of more questions as you read because that’s what strategic readers do. Respond to the Think-Along Questions as you come to them. Be sure to highlight any words you don’t know.
by George Selden
Tucker Mouse had been watching the Bellinis and listening to what they said. Next to scrounging, eavesdropping on human beings was what he enjoyed most. That was one of the reasons he lives in the Times Square subway station. As soon as the family disappeared, he darted across the floor and scooted up to the newsstand. At one side the boards had separated and there was a wide space he could jump through. He’d been in a few times before—just exploring. For a moment he stood under the three legged stool, letting his eyes get used to the darkness. Then he jumped up on it.
STOP AND THINK: What is “eavesdropping”?
“Psst!” he whispered. “Hey you up there—are you awake?”
There was no answer.
“Psst! Psst! Hey!” Tucker whispered again, louder this time.
A black head, with tow shiny black eyes, peered down at him. “Who are you?”
“A mouse,” said Tucker. “Who are you?”
9. “I’m Chester Cricket,” said the cricket. He had a high, musical voice. Everything he said seemed to be spoken to an unheard melody.
STOP AND THINK: What do you think “spoken in an unheard melody” meant?
10. “My name’s Tucker,” said Tucker Mouse. “Can I come up?”
11. “I guess so,” said Chester Cricket. “This isn’t my house anyway.”
12. Tucker jumped up beside the cricket and looked him all over. “A cricket,” he said admiringly. “So you’re a cricket. I never saw one before.”
13. “I’ve seen mice before,” the cricket said. “I knew quite a few back in Connecticut.”
14. “Is that where you’re from?” asked Tucker.
15. “Yes,” said Chester. “I guess I’ll never see it again,” he added wistfully.
STOP AND THINK: How far would you guess it is from Connecticut to New York City?
16. “How did you get to New York?” asked Tucker Mouse.
17. “It’s a long story,” sighed the cricket.
18. “Tell me,” said Tucker, settling back on his haunches. He loved to hear stories. It was almost as much fun as eavesdropping—if the story was true.
19. “Well it must have been two—no, three days ago,” Chester Cricket began. “I was sitting on top of my stump, just enjoying the weather and thinking how nice it was that summer had started. I live inside an old tree stump, next to a willow tree, and I often go up to the roof to look around. And I’d been practicing jumping that day too. On the other side of the stump from the willow tree there’s a brook that runs past, and I’d been jumping back and forth across it to get my legs in condition for the summer. I do a lot of jumping you know.”
20. “Me too,” said Tucker Mouse. “Especially around the rush hour.”
21. “And I had just finished jumping when I smelled something,” Chester went on, “liverwurst, which I love.”
22. “You like liverwurst?” Tucker broke in. “Wait! Wait! Just Wait!”
23. In one leap, he sprang down all the way from the shelf to the floor and dashed over to his drain pipe. Chester shook his head as he watched him go. He thought Tucker was a very excitable person—even for a mouse.
STOP AND THINK: What do you think liverwurst is?
24. Inside the drain pipe, Tucker’s nest was a jumble of papers, scraps of cloth, buttons, lost jewelry, small change, and everything else that can be picked up in a subway station. Tucker tossed things left and right in a wild search. Neatness was not one of the things he aimed at in life. At last he discovered what he was looking for: a big piece of liverwurst he had found earlier that evening. It was meant to be for breakfast tomorrow, but he decided that meeting his first cricket was a special occasion. Holding the liverwurst between his teeth, he whisked back to the newsstand.
25. “Look!” he said proudly, dropping the meat in front of Chester Cricket. “Liverwurst! You continue the story—we’ll enjoy a snack too.”
26. “That’s very nice of you,” said Chester. He was touched that a mouse he had known only a few minutes would share his food with him. “I had a little chocolate before, but beside that, nothing for three days.”
27. “Eat! Eat!” said Tucker. He bit the liverwurst into two pieces and gave Chester the bigger one. “So you smelled the liverwurst—then what happened?”
STOP AND THINK: How would you describe Tucker?
28. “I hopped down from the stump and went off toward the smell,” said Chester.
29. “Very logical,” said Tucker Mouse, munching with his cheeks full. “Exactly what I would have done.”
30. “It was coming from a picnic basket,” said Chester. “A couple of tuffets away from my stump the meadow begins, and there was a whole bunch of people having a picnic. They had hard boiled eggs, and cold roast, and a whole lot of other things besides liverwurst sandwiches, which I smelled.”
Tucker Mouse moaned with pleasure at the thought of all that food.
“They were having such a good time laughing and singing songs that they didn’t notice me when I jumped into the picnic basket,” continued Chester. “I was sure they wouldn’t mind if I had just a taste.”
“Naturally not,” said Tucker Mouse sympathetically. “Why mind? Plenty for all. Who could blame you?”
“Now I have to admit,” Chester went on, “O had more than a taste. As a matter of fact, I ate so much that I couldn’t keep my eyes open—what with being tired from the jumping and everything. And I fell asleep right there in the picnic basket. The first thing I knew, somebody had put a bag on top of me that had the last of the roast beef sandwiches in it. I couldn’t move!”
STOP AND THINK: Can you think of a time when you ate such big dinner that it made you sleepy?
“Imagine!” Tucker exclaimed. “Trapped under roast beef sandwiches! Well, there are worse fates.”
“At first I wasn’t too frightened,” said Chester. “After all, I thought, they probably come from New Canaan or some other nearby town. They’ll have to unpack the basket sooner or later. Little did I know!” He shook his head and sighed. “I could feel the basket being carried into a car and riding somewhere and then being lifted down. That must have been the railroad station. Then I went up again and there was a rattling and roaring sound, the way a train makes. By this time I was pretty scared. I knew every minute was taking me further away from my stump, but there wasn’t anything I could do. I was getting awfully cramped too, under those roast beef sandwiches.”
“Didn’t you try to eat your way out?” asked Tucker.
STOP AND THINK: What kind of noises would make you think you were in New York City?
I didn’t have any room,” said Chester. “But every now and then the train would give a lurch and I would manage to free myself a little. We traveled on and on, and then the train stopped. I didn’t have any idea where we were, but as soon as the basket was carried off, I could tell from the noise it must be New York,”
“You never were here before?” Tucker asked.
“Goodness no!” said Chester. “But I’ve heard about it. There was a swallow I used to know who told about flying over New York every spring and fall on her way to the North and back. But what would I be doing here?” He shifted uneasily from one set of legs to another. “I’m a country cricket.”
“Don’t worry,” said Tucker Mouse. “I’ll feed you liverwurst. You’ll be all right. Go on with the story.”
“It’s almost over,” said Chester. “The people got off one train and walked a ways and got on another—even noisier than the first.”
“Must have been the subway,” said Tucker.
“I guess so,” Chester Cricket said. “You can imagine how scared I was. I didn’t know where I was going! For all I knew they could have been heading for Texas, although I don’t guess many people from Texas come all the way to Connecticut to picnic.”
“It could happen,” said Tucker, nodding his head.
“Anyway I worked furiously to get loose. And finally I made it. When they got off the second train, I took a flying leap and landed in a pile of dirt over in the corner of this place where we are.”
“Such an introduction to New York,” said Tucker, “to land in a pile of dirt in the Times Square subway station. Tsk, tsk, tsk.”
STOP AND THINK: How do crickets chirp?
And here I am,” Chester concluded forlornly. “I’ve been lying over there for three days not knowing what to do. At last I got so nervous I began to chirp.”
“That was the sound!” interrupted Tucker Mouse. “I heard it, but I didn’t know what it was.”
“Yes, that was me,” said Chester. “Usually I don’t chirp until later on in the summer—but my goodness, I had to do something!”
The cricket had been sitting next to the edge of the shelf. For some reason—perhaps it was a faint noise, like padding feet tiptoeing across the floor—he happened to look down. A shadowy form that had been crouching slightly below in the darkness made a spring and landed right next to Tucker and Chester.
“Watch out!” Chester shouted, “A cat!” He dove headfirst into the matchbox.
STOP AND THINK: What do you think will happen to Tucker Mouse?
Making Sense of Words
When you come across a word that is unknown
TRY: Re-reading the sentence and using context clues. This means to pay attention to the other words in sentence.
TRY: breaking the word into parts. Do you see a base word? Do you recognize a prefix or suffix?
TRY: Use a dictionary or ask someone else.
1. Reread paragraph 21 and pay close attention to liverwurst.
a. Look up liverwurst in the dictionary and write the meaning below
b. Liverwurst must have a strong odor because Chester could smell the liverwurst in the picnic basket from his stump. List some other foods that have strong odors
2. Use the diagram below to help you discover the meaning of forlornly, found in paragraph 48
in the manner of
Write a definition of the root word plus the suffix
List three things that would cause you to be forlorn 1.
Select 3 more words from this story that you may not fully understand. Use Word Central to copy and paste the definition below. Only bring back the definition that fits the use of the word in this story.
Highlight which questions could be answered after reading “Chester”?
How often does the subway run?
How is liverwurst made?
Who is the couple with the picnic basket?
Had Tucker Mouse ever seen a cricket before?
Understand by Seeing it.
Beginning with paragraph 19, Chester tells the story of how he got from Connecticut to New York. Label the following diagram of all the details in his story. Don’t be sidetracked by Tucker. Begin with Chester on his stump in the meadow in Connecticut and end up with New York.
Write to Learn
A strategic reader asks questions before, during, and after reading. Think about what questions you would ask Tucker. Below, write a question and an answer from you to each one.
Webcams: Chester said he know he was in New York City by the noise. Have you ever been? Let’s go today to Time’s Square.
Make of list of all the things you can see that make noise.
Now let’s look at a Panoramic view of Times Square. What do you think panoramic view means?
Finally as a tourist you have brought back many photos. Look through you photo albums.