Not in an over the top way. Racist in a general, generational, wide-spread, common sort of way. But nonetheless... racist, or as Melissa Bank once wrote, if not racist, then race-ish.
The Cricket in Times Square is also charming. Published in 1960, it was a runner up for the Newbery Medal and is illustrated (beautifully) by Garth Williams. Suitable for readers 9 or 10 years old, the story is about Chester (a cricket) who accidentally travels to New York City from the Connecticut woods. In New York, out of his element, he befriends Tucker Mouse, Harry Cat, and a boy named Mario, whose family owns a newstand in the Times Square subway station.
Oh, and it turns out Chester has perfect pictch and can play symphonies with his chirps. He becomes a musical phenom - the most famous cricket in the world!
It's a silly, nonsensical and wonderful little story.
But... it's also disturbing. The book relies heavily on racial stereoptypes. There's the working-class Italian family from the newstand (Mama, Papa and Mario Bellini), who are the most subtle racial characters. And then there's plucky Tucker, an old-time New Yorker, money and fame obsessed. Tucker becomes Chester Cricket's musical manager and at one point, says it would be a dream come true to sleep on a bed of money and diamonds. He's a caricature of a New York Jew. Even worse is Sai Fong, an elderly Chinatown shop owner who helps Mario feed and house his new pet cricket. Highly exoticized and mystical, Sai Fong talks like this: "You got clicket! Eee hee hee! Velly good! You got clicket!"
I'm not even kidding.
So what do I do? Do I say, 'George Selden was a bit of a racist' and toss the book? Or do I keep it, remembering that once upon a time, I read it and loved it, and still managed to turn out okay?
It's a hard question, don't you think?