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Cricket Man


Cricket Man

Thirteen-year-old Kenny Sykes feels like a lot of other young teens --- like most of his life is out of his control. Parents make the big decisions, teachers and principals hold all the power at school --- even the question of whether a kid is popular or not often seems like random chance.

Kenny sometimes feels most in control when he's alone or when he's skateboarding with his friends: "What I think about when I ride the skateboard is control. Middle school, see, is like an ocean, but you don't even ride the waves. You're swept up by the current, one swirling mass of arms and legs tumbling down the halls together. On a board, though, you call the shots. Your eyes, your brain, your nerves, your muscles --- your grip, your speed, your spin, your curve…Whether you land on your feet or your butt, it's all up to you."

Kenny feels in control when he's skating (even though he'd be the first to admit he's no Tony Hawk) and powerful when he's pretending to be Cricket Man in his family's pool. Kenny is up early on summer mornings, rescuing the crickets and other insects who have jumped in the pool overnight. He loves the feeling of saving lives, no matter how small. When his self-designed "Cricket Man" t-shirt lands him in the school psychologist's office, however, Kenny finds his own voice --- and some unexpected respect from the rest of the student body.

Kenny might feel out of control and powerless in real life much of the time, but he's sure that Jodie Poindexter, the gorgeous high school junior from across the street, must be his complete opposite. That is, until he notices that she's spending an awful amount of time sitting on her porch roof staring into space. She's also staying in instead of dating, going to dances, or doing just about anything except studying.

These two lonely neighbors form an unlikely friendship, and as Kenny bonds with the older girl over after-school snacks and New Year's Eve appetizers, he wonders whether Cricket Man would have what it takes to save a life much larger than that of an insect.

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's CRICKET MAN is an authentic story about a boy learning to believe in his own powers. Narrated in Kenny's wry, matter-of-fact voice, the novel includes humorous observations --- on everything from wedding planning to awkward crushes to clueless vice principals --- even as it tackles heavier issues of sexuality, depression and teen pregnancy. Kenny's story of self-discovery is also about learning to look outside one's own comfortable, happy existence to recognize, support and maybe even save the lives of others.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on October 18, 2011

Cricket Man
by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

  • Publication Date: September 30, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 141694981X
  • ISBN-13: 9781416949817