Cricket in the Thicket – Perfect Picture Book Friday

19 May

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)



38 Responses to “Cricket in the Thicket – Perfect Picture Book Friday”

  1. Sue Morris @ KidLitReviews May 19, 2017 at 2:35 am #

    I am not a bug person. Though I appreciate what some of them do, I’d rather they not do it in my home. Kids should love this picture book.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 19, 2017 at 8:11 am #

      Oh, but if you close your eyes, you’ll never know they’re there….well, except for that pesky cricket…

  2. Letizia May 19, 2017 at 4:53 am #

    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 May 19, 2017 at 8:14 am #

      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….

  3. julie rowan zoch May 19, 2017 at 5:57 am #

    What a great title! Can’t wait for work now so I can read it!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 19, 2017 at 8:15 am #

      Everything about this book is great, I think. But that title is definitely a winner! I’m so lousy at thinking of titles…..I think you’ll enjoy it!

  4. heylookawriterfellow May 19, 2017 at 6:08 am #

    OK. That spider poem won me over, too. And it taught me something; spiney-backs eat their webs? Who’d a thunk it!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 19, 2017 at 8:18 am #

      Soooo many cool facts! I learned quite a bit by reading this book. Never too crotchety to learn a thing or two. And wait until you find out about the birth rate of ticks or how spotted beetles breathe under water….

  5. Patricia Tilton May 19, 2017 at 9:25 am #

    I love the title and the cover! I am interested in the Monarch caterpillar/butterfly. Kids will love all the cool information and illustrations in this book.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 19, 2017 at 9:51 am #

      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.

  6. Leslie Leibhardt Goodman - Writer May 19, 2017 at 9:44 am #

    Confession… I find many insects quite fascinating and sometimes beautiful. And now I find I have a new book to check out about insects with clever poems. Yay!!!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 19, 2017 at 9:52 am #

      Oh, you will LOVE this book! I hope your library has it on order, as well as your local indie bookstore!

  7. Cathy Ballou Mealey May 19, 2017 at 9:51 am #

    How could you not love “a peppy picker-upper”!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 19, 2017 at 9:53 am #

      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.

  8. Maria Marshall May 19, 2017 at 11:11 am #

    Looks like a fun book. On reserve at the library. I love Melissa Sweet’s illustrations.

  9. Joanna May 19, 2017 at 12:25 pm #

    I love bugs, and what a terrific title. I can only imagine outstanding quality from such a great pairing.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 19, 2017 at 1:03 pm #

      Yes, there’s so much to love, here. So much to recommend. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Barbara Leyne May 19, 2017 at 1:53 pm #

    What an awesome pick! I love the poems you shared.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 19, 2017 at 2:02 pm #

      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!

  11. Barbara May 19, 2017 at 1:54 pm #

    Wow! What a great pick! I love the poems you shared.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann June 1, 2017 at 7:38 pm #

      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!

  12. Carrie Rubin May 19, 2017 at 3:30 pm #

    With a title and illustrations like that, you know it’s going to be a fun one!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 19, 2017 at 3:53 pm #

      The opening poem is about the cricket. Quite funny, the author substitutes the word “cricket” for the sound the cricket makes in the poem to great effect. Cheers!

  13. carol Baldwin May 19, 2017 at 6:10 pm #

    This looks like a great book. Congrats Carol and thanks for featuring her, Jilanne.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 19, 2017 at 6:32 pm #

      It’s my pleasure. A book this lovely should be sent into the world with a splash. I hope it makes a big one!

  14. Diane Tulloch May 21, 2017 at 12:46 am #

    I’m not a bug person myself but I’m sure kids will love it. The title is catchy and sure to catch the eye.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 21, 2017 at 9:21 am #

      Oh, but the illustrations make them so approachable. Or maybe that’s not a selling point for you. 😀

  15. Mrs. P May 21, 2017 at 5:26 am #

    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!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 21, 2017 at 9:26 am #

      It definitely deserves to be a hit what with pictures from an extraordinary Caldecott-winning illustrator, Carol’s clever and catchy poems, and science-based facts.

  16. Kate Johnston May 23, 2017 at 10:03 am #

    What a fun book–great way to encourage kids to learn about bugs instead of squashing them! 🙂

    • Jilanne Hoffmann May 23, 2017 at 10:34 am #

      Indeed! Especially when it comes to the ones that kids usually say “ewww” about. They discover something about bugs that makes them more than just a moving target.

  17. Ste J May 24, 2017 at 7:27 am #

    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 May 24, 2017 at 9:27 am #

      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 May 26, 2017 at 5:52 am #

        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 May 26, 2017 at 8:31 am #

          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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