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Cricket, the literary magazine for children: a love letter

Cricket, the literary magazine for children: a love letter
Cricket, the literary magazine for children: a love letter


I first came across Cricket, the literary magazine for children, at my best friend Elaine's house. Elaine was the most refined child I knew. She always chose coffee ice cream. The Tooth Fairy brought her not crumpled dollar bills, but smooth stones painted with miniature landscapes. She had traveled extensively, visiting family, and the Inwood apartment where she lived with her parents was filled with art and books and the smells of the elaborate meals her father cooked, the fact that he worked nights and was therefore available to take us there. museums after school, was itself glamorous. Even the apple juice they served us, in vibrantly painted Turkish tea glasses, tasted richer and finer than anything I had ever tasted.

Cricket was beautiful. The logo looked as if it had been painted with a calligraphy brush, changing from elegant but clear lettering to a delicate depiction of the insect of the same name. The cover of the first issue I remember featured a Margot Zemach illustration of a royal tiger lying on a green couch; the back showed the equally regal back of his head. Inside were poems, stories, cartoons; work by Madhur Jaffrey and Hilary Knight but also by other children, my age and younger.

Then I went looking for Cricket in the library. I read it conscientiously, knowing that it said something about the kind of child I wanted to be. And when it was my birthday, about five months later, I applied for a subscription. My parents were happy to cooperate. It was the first magazine I ever received in the mail. Each issue was a joy, a challenge and a little scary. These were thick, book-quality magazines, with volume numbers, to be treated not as disposable objects, but as treasures. The title, I heard, was a reference to an Isaac Bashevis Singer story in which a cricket chirps constantly, telling a story that would never end.

I was not allowed to read highlights. I don't think my mother thought it was good literature. So I had to secretly treat Goofus and Gallant at the dentist, because I would sneak the Baby-Sitters Club books later. (Ranger Rick was for those alien species, animal children.)

For those of us with literary or artistic pretensions, however, the amorphous Cricket wasn't just our best option; it was our only option.

I'll admit: I didn't always stay on top of my crickets. Sometimes schoolwork took priority, or I became engrossed in a book that wasn't good literature, or in a Newbery-winning novel in which a child experiences tragedy. Crickets would then gather in a reproachful pile an early lesson in the pile of serious magazine-induced guilt that I have always felt needs its own German compound word.

This was appropriate. When she founded Cricket in 1973, veteran (German-born) publisher Marianne Carus intended her magazine to be The New Yorker for children, an antidote to the pablum offered to her three school-age children. (The magazine's founding was underpinned by a robust, phonics-based reading philosophy.) The opening party in New York City reportedly attracted so many celebrities that one guest remarked to Carus: If a bomb had gone off at your party, the whole party. The children's book world would have been wiped out.

Instead, they became contributors. Working with a staff that included the original art director, Trina Schart Hyman, and former New Yorker editor Clifton Fadiman, she published an incredible quality product nine times a year, featuring work by Singer, TS Eliot, Nikki Giovanni, Ursula Le Guin, John Updike, Charles Ghigna. The folksy Old Cricket Says column that bookended each issue was often written by Lloyd Alexander. We only accepted the highest quality stories and art, Carus told a writer for Medium in 2017. (Carus died in 2021.)

Over the years, the magazine has been the cause of well-deserved raptures from many literary types. The typical cricket reader, this newspaper wrote, was intelligent and courteous, often well beyond his or her teenage years, and felt limited by a culture that still relegated children to the edges of adult life in the 1970s.

I wanted to be that urbane kid, but the truth is, I wasn't really that. Maybe it was the smell of parental approval that made Cricket feel a little intimidating, but I was also in awe of the children writing poems and stories. and published them. How were there children who were confident enough, brave enough to show their work to the world and, worse, subject it to judgment? I imagined them wandering around drinking pear nectar (for some reason I thought that was pear nectar). soign), making puns and knowing the names of colleges.

When I brought up Cricket with my colleagues here at the Book Review, I discovered that several of them had done just as well, if not the pear nectar. Alexandra Jacobs won a third prize at the age of 7, before winning silver at the age of 10 for a poem called March Gossip. AO Scott filed a story. I was in third or fourth grade and won second prize, he wrote to me. It was kind of an important moment in my development as a writer because it was the first recognition I ever got and it helped me form the idea that this could be something I could do. Me? At 9am I sent a gruff letter to the editor requesting more puppet fiction. I never heard anything back.

If I'm honest, my favorite part of Cricket was the regular cast of insects Cricket, Ladybug, and Spider floating around the margins, annotating, commenting, and defining words.

Many of my friends, literary and otherwise, were cricket readers and, like me, have kept all their back issues (although others who I had assumed were nectar-swiggers now admit to being intimidated by the magazine). They are too fine, too precious, and too imbued with power to throw away. Like most formative influences, they were ambitious.

When I was an adult, I returned to my crickets. Without any expectations or idea of ​​what I should read, I sat in my parents' basement and read years' worth of issues, finally able to truly enjoy the quality, beauty, and ambition of the project.

In 2011, the Carus Publishing Company was sold to ePals Corporation, a Canadian digital education platform. But you can still read the paper edition.

This past year my son got his first subscription to one of Cricket's magazines for young children, Ladybug. He likes getting it in the mail. We read the stories and do the word search. He likes to see Cricket, Spider and Ladybug popping up in the margins. The paper is smooth and I have no problem recycling the issues, especially since he has always read them carefully. (He also reads Ranger Rick Jr., he's an animal child.)

I take pictures of him scrolling through each song on my phone and send them to his godmother, Elaine, knowing she's probably in a different time zone where she sleeps, but I want her to know he received her gift .




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