Christmas Cricket, by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Timothy Bush (2002)
The dedication page implies the inspiration for the story. The author writes, “To the Christmas choir in my garden. You sing like angels.” This book tells the story of a cold, wet, and dejected cricket who makes his way indoors and takes shelter in a brightly lit tree he finds there. Once he hides himself there, he begins to sing, and he is startled by sudden voices nearby. When the larger of the voices agrees with the smaller voice (who says she thinks she heard the angel ornament sing) that he thinks he hears singing, too, Cricket is surprised to hear him also say, “Did you know that angels sing in the songs of birds, and frogs and people and crickets?” Cricket is calmed and encouraged by the thought, and he joins in with the voices as they sing “Joy to the World” with joy in his own heart.
BoyChild really enjoyed this book. He even gave sounding out a few lines a try: “What should he do? He must not be found. Should he jump? Should he try to get away? Should he stay hidden?” (Clearly, not all of that can be sounded out, but he tried!) When we reread it the next day, he willingly tried it out again, only missing a few tricky words, so I’m encouraged by his effort! While he liked the part when Cricket is crossing the kitchen tiles (“jump-jumped across something, cold as frozen snow”), the hardwood floor (“skid-skidded across somewhere, slippery as pond ice”), and onto a rug (“a place as soft and fresh as grass”), he really loved the illustration showing Cricket hopping across the living room floor and up into the tree. I think he found it funny how Cricket interpreted the different flooring types based on his own experience with the outside, and the implied movement of the illustration was fun for him. The art is done in watercolor and features an assortment of perspectives that keep the illustrations interesting and make the reader feel close to the action of the story. While the claim that angels sing in the songs of animals and people is a little suspect, I explained to BoyChild that the Bible says that nature proclaims God’s glory (Psalm 19), so the author probably means that it’s as if the angels are singing when creatures in nature make their music. The point of the story, then, is found in the following passage: “He was small, then. But not worthless. What a great discovery!” For little children feeling small and powerless (and perhaps their parents, feeling insignificant in a big world), the reminder that even the smallest voice–each member of God’s creation–speaks a bit of heaven is a refreshing and empowering thought.
Great for a read-aloud for preschool to early elementary, this book has large illustrations and small chunks of text that would make it a great independent read for an early reader as well. Definitely BoyChild approved, and GirlChild thought it was cute, too.