Each issue of Cricket is 48 pages. The magazine is published nine times a year (monthly, with some of the summer months combined) by the Carus Publishing Company of Peru, Illinois. Its target audience is children from 9 to 14 years old. Until March 1995, Cricket was published by the Open Court Publishing Company of La Salle, Illinois, now part of Carus.
Cricket publishes original stories, poems, folk tales, articles and illustrations by such notable artists as Trina Schart Hyman, the magazine's art director from 1973 to 1979. Carus has solicited materials from well-known authors and illustrators, including Lloyd Alexander, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Hilary Knight, William Saroyan, Ursula K. Le Guin, Eric Carle, Stacy Curtis, Wallace Tripp, Charles Ghigna and Paul O. Zelinsky. Cricket also runs contests and publishes work by its readers. Hyman contributed to the magazine until her death in 2004.
One distinct feature of Cricket is the illustrated cast of recurring characters that appears in the margins of each issue, similar to a comic strip. These characters include Cricket, Ladybug, and other friends, most of whom are also insects. The characters are involved in a storyline that runs throughout the issue, but also comment on the articles above them. They define difficult words, draw attention to unusual facts, and otherwise annotate the magazine's content.
On the last page of each issue is the "Old Cricket Says" column, in which Old Cricket points out a bit of wisdom or a witticism, or introduces themes to be explored in the upcoming issues of Cricket. This recurring column has been ghostwritten by a number of authors and editors who worked for Cricket, but a preponderance of them were written by author Lloyd Alexander until his death in 2007.
In 2003, Cricket Books published Celebrate Cricket: 30 Years of Stories and Art, a retrospective that republishes stories from the magazine and includes interviews with some of the founders and contributors.
Cricket was founded by a group of "historically minded writers and their artist and designer friends", led by Marianne Carus of Open Court Publishing. She had worked on "literature-based basic readers" for the school markets and had learned from teachers that there was a classroom demand for high-quality, short reading material. The time was right for a "new St. Nicholas Magazine.
The founding Editorial Board (November 1972) comprised Carus, senior editor Clifton Fadiman, art director Trina Schart Hyman, prominent authors Lloyd Alexander, Isaac Bashevis Singer and Eleanor Cameron, Horn Book Magazine editor Paul Heins, "Kaye Webb (founder of Puffin Books and the doyenne of British publishers for children), Virginia Haviland (of the Library of Congress), and Sheila Egoff (Canada's leading authority in the field)." Fadiman was a well-known literary personality, a New Yorker book critic and a Book-of-the-Month Club judge.
The inaugural issue went on sale January 1973 with a launch party in New York City. One guest later told Carus, "If a bomb had gone off during your party, the entire children's book world would've been wiped out."
Carus children's magazines
In turn, Carus Publishing Company (sometimes called simply Cricket) now publishes 15 children's magazines, including the five "insects". Most of them are issued nine times annually.
- Cicada — literary magazine
- Calliope — world history
- Cobblestone (from 1980) — American history
- Cricket (from 1973) — literary magazine
- Dig — "archaeology – without all the dirt!"
- Faces — children around the world: how they live
- Muse — science and arts
- Odyssey — "science as a vital link to daily life"
- Iguana — Spanish-language variety
- Ask — science, history, inventors, artists; "the most curious people"
- Appleseeds — one cultural or historical topic each issue
- Spider — literary magazine
- Click — science, art, nature; one topic each issue
- Ladybug — literary magazine
Babies to 3 years
- Babybug — "board-book style magazine"
- Alexander, Lloyd, "Old Cricket's Family Album". In Carus.
- Marcus, 256.
- Carus, p. 13, quoted by Marcus, p. 257.
- "CRICKET: Shop for Children's Magazines". Carus Publishing. Retrieved 2012-12-05.
- Carus, Marianne, ed., Celebrate Cricket: 30 Years of Stories and Art, Chicago: Cricket Books, 2003. (ISBN 978-0-8126-2695-7)
- Marcus, Leonard S., Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, entrepreneurs, and the shaping of American children's literature, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2008. (ISBN 978-0-395-67407-9)