Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Old Cricket by Lisa Wheeler illustrated by Ponder Goembel

Text copyright © 2003 by Lisa Wheeler
Illustrations copyright © 2003 by Ponder Goembel

Old Cricket wakes up feeling, "cranky, crotchety and cantankerous." His wife requests that he repair the roof, but he is in no mood to oblige her. Old Cricket decides to avoid the work by using deceit - he tells his wife that he has a creak in his knee. Concerned, she advises him to see Doc Hopper and she packs a breakfast for him to eat along the way. Old Cricket walks away with a "creak-creak-creak" in case his wife is watching.
En route, he meets his cousin Katydid. She asks Old Cricket to assist her in picking berries for the winter. Old Cricket continues with his deception, this time also claiming that he has a crick in his neck. Katydid offers him a berry to eat along the way. Old Cricket walks away with a "creak-creak-creak" and a "crick-crick-crick" in case Katydid is watching.
Further down the road, Old Cricket comes across his Uncle Ant who asks for his aide to harvest the corn. Old Cricket tells him that in addition to the creak in his knee and crick in his neck, he has a crack in his back.  Uncle Ant offers him a kernel of corn to eat along the way.  Old Cricket walks away with a "creak-creak-creak", "crick-crick-crick" and a "crack-crack-crack" in case Uncle Ant is watching.
Old Cricket feels quite smug: he has successfully avoided doing any work. He has no intention of visiting Doc Hopper either,  but rather finds a comfortable place to nap. His plan is soon disturbed by Old Crow, "caw-caw-caw," looking for lunch. Old Cricket continues his deceit, and warns Old Crow that he has the hiccups and will cause indigestion if Old Crow swallows him. Old Cricket then attempts to hobble away as he has all day, with the pretend "creak-creak-creak," 'crick-crick-crick," "crack-crack-crack" and now a fake "hic-hic-hic".

Old Crow is not as easily fooled, and he begins to pursue Old Cricket. As he attempts to evade being lunch, Old Cricket throws food out of his bundle hoping the Old Crow will slow down to eat it. Each time, Old Crow gulps the food down without stopping. Finally all that remains is a biscuit and Old Cricket tosses it.  Old Crow snaps it up, but because it is so dry, he begins to choke. Old Cricket is then able to escape.
While he was fleeing from Old Crow, Old Cricket stumbled and slipped, resulting in actual injuries.  When he comes upon Doc Hopper's office, the doctor fixes all of Old Cricket's, now real, ailments. Old Cricket returns home, a little wiser, and repairs the roof that he attempted to avoid that morning.

Old Cricket is a perfect read-aloud because there are many opportunities for the reader to ham it up.  I borrowed the book from the library two years ago and after hearing my kids' guffaws throughout the first read, I knew we needed to own it. Lisa Wheeler's story has wordplay and repetition. The kids enjoy repeating the "creak- crick- crack and hic" sounds. The Old Cricket shouts out words like, "Crikey", "Cornsakes," "Criminy" which add to the giggles. There is also suspense as Old Cricket attempts to flee and there is a moral regarding honesty. In addition, I  am delighted that great vocabulary words are introduced - cranky, crotchety and cantankerous among others.   

Ponder Goembel's illustrations are the icing on the cake. The illustrations are detailed, colorful, lovely and large. The large size is a bonus for me, because all three of my children can easily view them while I read. I don't have to hear, "Let me see," "No, let me see," and "I can't see either." Plus I think "Ponder" is a very cool name and I like pronouncing it each time we read Old Cricket:-) Ms. Goembel informed me that "Ponder" is an old family name meaning "pond."

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