What had six legs and 250,000 young readers?
For readers of a certain generation (mine), the words “Cricket magazine” cast a spell. The somewhat tony, totally charming publication for young readers started in 1973. Among the quarter-million mailboxes it landed in was my family’s, putting in my greedy little hands stories and poetry by renowned writers. Alongside the words were witty illustrations, including the critters crawling the margins of every issue: Ladybug, Ugly Bird, and the eponymous Cricket. The magazine helped make reading a habit—like breathing, but more fun.
I was reminded of this small joy when I heard of the death of Marianne Carus, Cricket’s founder, in March. What I didn’t know until I read her obituary was that Carus took a few classes at the University of Chicago after moving here from Germany, with her American husband, and was a parent of two alumni.
To the biased observer (me), it’s fitting that someone with ties to the University would invent a new magazine, no less one that treated children as discerning readers and supplied them with good things to read—as Carus called it, “literature you cannot put down.” Decades later I’m still grateful for that gift, and glad to know its giver had even a slender common thread with me, and with you.
Starting a new periodical is a pretty UChicago thing to do, it turns out. Maybe most famously, Robert Silvers, AB’47, cofounded the New York Review of Books in 1963. Three more such publications come up in this very issue: in Peer Review, the graduate-student-run literary journal Chicago Review, which turns 75 this year and which once had Magazine alumni news editor Andrew Peart, AM’16, PhD’18, at the top of the masthead (“Scattering Poems”), and the Baffler, founded by Thomas Frank, AM’89, PhD’94 (“Do It Yourself”).
In 1976 College third-year Eugene “Chip” Forrester, AB’77, cofounded a new student newspaper, the Chicago Journal. Like Carus with Cricket and so many others, Forrester identified a readerly need and spoke to it. His paper spoke for eight years, one as a student publication and the next seven as a free weekly for Chicago’s South Side. To find out more, see “Alternative History.”
We at the Magazine, with its 113 years and generations of editors, are more custodians than founders. That just makes our admiration of Carus et al. deeper.