A tale of magic and loyalty, first told some 300 years ago in China. It was a time when the emperor was smitten with fighting crickets, going so far as to levy a tax to increase his cricket stable. One victim of the tax, about to be thrown in jail for failing to ante up, manages to bag the Mike Tyson of crickets, only to have it escape through the foolishness of his son. An old soul comes to the son's rescue but requires him to turn into a cricket. A series of prize fights ensues, including bouts with Crabshell Blue and Longwings, both court champions. Wei nian -- the son, now cricket -- prevails, becoming the hero of the court, but homesickness prompts him to attempt a dangerous escape across a chicken-strewn yard. The old soul again comes to his rescue, this time transforming Wei nian back into a boy and reuniting him with his family. The Changs know how to give the whims of authority a good lambasting without getting smug about it, and Hutton's crabbed pen-and-wash illustrations bring a Roz Chast leavening to the serious themes of the story.