Last summer I moved from my home in Astoria, Queens in New York City to Portland, OR. In preparation for that, my research revealed that that shipping our belongings would be the most affordable way to get them from one coast to the other (moving across country can be quite spendy). That meant we had to do a giant purge to reduce our belongings down to the things we really loved, so that we only had to pay to ship the important things; that included my short stack of vintage Cricket Magazines.
My mom had saved these issues over the years and in the past decade or so, as she paired down her possessions, she sent them my way. I would flip through them from time to time and the glow of happy memories from them was always present; their potent sentimental value never escaped me. When I packed them up in a box I didn’t spend a lot of time going through them first, since I knew I wanted to keep them. Plus, we were on an uncomfortably tight schedule of about three weeks to organize everything, pack and send, and fly to our new home, cats in tow.
A few months after I had assembled new bookshelves in Portland (an outrageously heavy 8×8 IKEA KALLAX unit), I took a fresh look at my old Crickets, and it hit me – these issues were special beyond my own personal delight. I had in my hands the inaugural Cricket Magazine issue from January 1973! In fact, I hold the first five issues, along with issues seven and nine. Each issue cost $1.25, no doubt a goodly sum in the early 1970s.
Paging through these magazines as an adult brings back all sorts of happy childhood memories of spending time with them, both on my own and with my mother; she was trained as a children’s librarian and knew what the good stuff was for a young person, especially a young girl. It was always a joy to read the thick book-like publication, filled with amazing, beautiful, and funny stories accompanied by wonderful illustrations. And the magazines themselves were well-made; even today, 44 years later, the physical binding holds up and doesn’t crack when you open it.
One of my very favorite parts of every Cricket issue was the commentary and conversations between Cricket and Ladybug and their friends in the margins. They were always so clever, informative, and more often than not made me giggle and laugh because the interactions were just so funny!
Looking over the inaugural issue with much older eyes, I’m so impressed by the array of different kinds of people and characters portrayed inside. At an early, formative age, diversity was made normal. The cover displays illustrations of black, white, and brown children; the back cover shows a little girl reading with a stack of books next to her (that was me as a kid). A story inside describes how a young peasant girl (portrayed in a headscarf, no less) in the land of Gargantak was able to win ownership of half the kingdom by coming up with a creative solution. There’s a story about Nigerian drums accompanied by stunning drawings of people in traditional clothing. The magazine also had stories told through the eyes of anthropomorphized animals, which I loved. And there was poetry, too, perfect for my age group (elementary school-age children).
On top of that, excerpts from the works of famous authors – men and women – were in each issue of Cricket, including those of Astrid Lindgren, e.e. cummings, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Barbara Brooks Wallace. There was so much to enjoy, I eagerly anticipated each issue so that I could devour it over and over and over.
I believe Cricket magazine made a deep and meaningful impression on me as a young person, and helped shape who I am today. It taught me that creativity is valuable; learning and expanding my perspective is essential; equality is important; and that the world is a beautiful place – challenging at times, but worth engaging with it. I’ll forever been indebted to Cricket for teaching me such important lessons at a young age.