Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Listening for Crickets

Listening for Crickets

David Gifaldi
For ages 9 to 11
Henry Holt , 2008   ISBN: 978-0805097405

Jake lives in a far from perfect rented house with his mother, father, and his little sister Cassie. He has to share a room with Cassie, which he is not at all happy about. After all, he is a fifth grader now and what fifth grade boy wants to share a room with his second grade sister. There are times though when sharing a room is good thing. The children’s parents fight a lot and when voices are raised, doors are slammed, and things are broken, Jake makes up stories for Cassie to try to comfort her. In their shared room they do their best to shut out the ugly world beyond.

The day after a particularly nasty “blowout,” Jake and Cassie decide to create a safe place for themselves inside the hedge that grows between their backyard and Mrs. Pittmon’s property. They decide to call the space they have created Dragon’s Nest, and Jake tells his sister to come to the hedge when she feels scared. They both promise that they won’t tell anyone about their special place.

Often Jake dreams of being able to fly out into the sky like a bat. There in the cool night air he won’t have to listen to the sound of people fighting. Instead, he will hear the cricket choir singing their songs and he will be happy.

Jake thinks of bats a lot because he has ears that stick out a bit. Thinking about bats and all the amazing things that they can do makes him feel less self-conscious about his ears. Bats are cool and so maybe having ears that stick out isn’t such a bad thing. He also feels self-conscious about his webbed toes, and because he needs special help with reading and writing. Usually he does not mind being in the special class for slower learners, but sometimes other people make him feel that he is dumb and one of these people is his father.

These days so many things Jake’s father does makes Jake feel worried or upset. The man is angry so much of the time and he lashes out. Money is very tight and he keeps getting fired from jobs. He also is prone to drinking too much, which only makes the situation worse.

One day Jake’s father forces his son to read to him from the paper and Jake feels as if he is being cornered.  Jake makes a hole in the paper, which is when an already bad situation gets even worse.

It is all too easy to judge people and to think that you know what their lives are like. Often we have no idea what is going on behind closed doors. In this story readers get to know a boy whose home life is fraught with uncertainty and fear. The amazing thing is that Jake rises to the challenge again and again. He comforts his sister and tries to keep the peace. He does his best and for that he deserves a medal for courage.