Saturday, June 14, 2014

C.R. Mudgeon by Leslie Muir

C.R. Mudgeon by Leslie Muir, illustrated by Julian Hector

Rating: 5 stars

As I venture into the world of children's book writing and illustrating, I learn that there are clear, important aspects in a book. One of those truisms: Make memorable, quirky, strong characters.

Okay, now look at the cover.  Check out that hedgehog.

Clearly, author Leslie Muir and illustrator Julian Hector wildly succeeded at creating a memorable, strong, quirky character!  I mean, that hedgehog has more attitude than my three kids put together!  He so badly wants to avoid smells--despite the glorious day that he's closed his eyes to--that he'd prefer pin his nose shut!  Aren't you curious about why? I sure am.

And so I turned the page and started the story (because I had already fallen in love with the main character).

C.R. Mudgeon is a creature of habit who prefers plain, drab, and bland.  He eats celery root soup (no salt). He drinks dandelion tea (no lemon).  He has dessert (but only on Tuesdays).
C.R. Mudgeon eats the same soup every single night.
He carefully and grumpily lives in this existence, within the well-known path of comfort his zone.

Then he gets a new neighbor: Miss Paprika.  Miss Paprika wears colorful dresses and dangly earrings.  She cooks with every spice she's ever met. She plants bright poppies outside.  She has a mariachi band that practices in her house.

At first, C.R. Mudgeon is overwhelmed by all the spices in the air.  He sneezes when the pepper tickles his throat.  And the loud sounds he keeps hearing give him a headache!  The thumpity-thump of her mariachi band makes a clump of ceiling fall on his head.  He is not amused.

Of course, this is a classic opposites-attract type of story. Paprika spices up C.R. Mudgeon's bland life and C.R. Mudgeon proves to be a good friend to Paprika.  They each have something unique to share, and they bring out what is missing in the other.  Miss Paprika does seem to have the bigger role in spreading fun and joy in C.R. Mudgeon's life, for sure, and when he realizes he can't live without her (or simply doesn't want to), I am reminded again how some people come into your life and add such a surprisingly large presence that it's hard to let them go.  How wonderful that C.R. Mudgeon doesn't have to!

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