Cricket in the Thicket – Perfect Picture Book Friday

This week’s addition to Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Fridays comes to us from the heart of bug country, the Great Plains. What do you think of when you think of Kansas?

You’re not in Kansas, anymore, Toto….

Well, that’s what I used to think until I spent the week with Carol Murray at Highlights Summer Camp last July. When not writing/revising and attending workshop sessions, we rambled through the bug-filled countryside of Pennsylvania, discussing all things kidlit. And that’s how I found out she’s from Kansas. Now, whenever the Sunflower State (and wind) comes up in casual conversation (it happens daily, trust me), I immediately think of Carol. 

Seriously, though, I’ve been eagerly anticipating her book for nearly a year, and I’m sure that she has been waiting far longer than that while Melissa Sweet finished those luscious illustrations. So here it is!

The cover immediately lets readers know they’re in good, buggy company. And the whimsical dedication page 

also sets the tone with playful humor. The first poem I read wasn’t the first in the book. I just opened it to a random page and was treated to the following:


Spinning Spiny-Back

I spin,

and spin, 

and when I need

a peppy picker-upper,

I spin a little more,

and then

I eat my web for supper. 

In the text box in the lower right hand corner of the page we learn: “Spiny-backs are orb weavers. When they build a new web, they take down the old one and eat the discarded silk, which is a great source of protein. Spiny-backs are champion recyclers.”

I flipped to another page to find one of the more unsavory-named critters, the dung beetle:


Let’s Hear It for Dung Beetle!

I don’t get much respect, and I suspect you didn’t know

that I was very popular in Egypt long ago.

A sacred bug. Oh yes, indeed! A charm with magic power.

Too bad you didn’t know me in my former, finest hour.


Don’t you just love the internal rhyme in the first line? And the hard “c” and “ch” sounds in the third line. (Can’t you just hear that crusty scarab scrabbling through the dung?) And the alliterative “efs” that lead softly into the lingering “hour”? This poet has chops!

Each poem is beautifully rendered via mixed media illustrations and accompanied by fascinating tidbits about the featured bug. I can imagine any number of children who will delight in memorizing these poems and reciting them whenever they find a ladybug, damsel fly, dung beetle, jumping spider, walking stick, preying mantis, or even the lowly common fly. The book features 27 bugs in all and includes three pages of back matter that provide even more cool facts about each one. 

Want to know something amazing about the Monarch caterpillar and butterfly? Well, I’m not going to spill the bugs. You’ll have to read the book to find out! Happy reading!

TITLE: Cricket in the Thicket

AUTHOR: Carol Murray

ILLUSTRATOR: Melissa Sweet 

PUBLISHER: Henry Holt, May 2017

TARGET AGE: Preschool-Adult (yes, adults will love them, too)



40 thoughts on “Cricket in the Thicket – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Letizia says:

    Love the little poems too! Bug books are always so great for kids as it teaches them about nature and also to be compassionate about the little ones around us. And to be curious about the little things we cannot always see.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes! The carefully selected details about each bug are enough to send kids down the entymologist’s road. And maybe it will keep them from squishing everything that crawls, flies, slithers, buzzes, etc….

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes, everything about this book is well thought out and entertaining, the latter being something I just learned (from Beth Anderson’s PPBF post) was Newbery’s philosophy toward books. I’m thinking that the four copies on order for the San Francisco Public Library won’t be nearly enough to serve this city.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      My thoughts exactly! These are such fun to read aloud. I’m going to take my copy in to our school library and share it with the kids. Maybe have a contest to see who can memorize the most poems.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      If you love those two, you are sure to love the others. I remember having a book called “Just Around the Corner” (Leland Jacobs) when I was kid. It contained poems about the seasons/nature. I loved it and memorized many of them. I think this book strikes a similar chord. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Barbara, I’m sorry I missed your comment until now. I don’t know why. Anyway, yes, these poems are wonderful and should be shared widely! I hope you find a copy and read the whole book, preferably with someone small. 😀 Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  2. Mrs. P says:

    This is going to make an awesome book in any child’s library. The boys will love it and the girls will too! Having read thousands of excellent children’s stories, I’m sure this one will be a hit!

  3. Ste J says:

    Physical proximity to bugs is never a pleasant thing but in book form they are extremely pleasing, this looks like a lovely book both with the words and the illustrations. I could learn a thing or two from it.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      So you don’t enjoy camping, I take it? Do you go out of your way to avoid bugs when taking a stroll? Do you have entomophobia? I’m suddenly reminded of the scene in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” where Lucy hangs out her psychiatry shingle, and for 5 cents attempts to diagnose Charlie Brown’s holiday sadness. LOL. Cheers!

      • Ste J says:

        I don’t mind camping, I do make sure the tent is as secure as possible and what not. I had a fear that I would get malaria from mosquitoes a while back…so careful I avoided all bites.

        • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

          You are wise to avoid all things malaria-related. We took anti-malarials when we camped throughout southern Africa years ago. The drugs gave us wild nightmares, but neither of us came down with the disease. I have had dengue fever, which I got in Tahiti. Quite unpleasant. It’s also called “break bone fever,” and I have to say that is a fairly accurate description.

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