It’s Tuesday, it’s Tuesday!
For eminently sensible hedgehog C.R. Mudgeon, Tuesday is the day to pick a fresh fig for dessert.
For all of us here in the Alphabet Soup kitchen, this particular Tuesday is the day we get to shake shake shake our maracas, cause we’re celebrating the official release of C.R. Mudgeon, a brand new picture book by Leslie Muir and Julian Hector!
*cues in mariachi band music*
Before I tell you about some of the things I love most about this charming book, a couple of party favors. First, put on these hedgehog slippers if you’re like C.R. Mudgeon himself — a creature of habit who likes things just so and gets grumpy when faced with change:
If you’re a little firecracker who makes friends easily and likes to spice things up, put on these sassy red polka dot pumps, cause you’re just like C.R. Mudgeon’s new bushy-tailed neighbor, Paprika:
Yes, we have party hats! Team Celery for all you hideaway hedgehogs, Team Chili Pepper for you squirrely squirrels.
Now, I know you’ve been wondering about the maracas. Plenty to go around. Paprika wants you to choose your favorite design, but DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT shake them until instructed to do so.
Alrighty. Lookin’ good! Let the par-tay begin!
I’d been a fan of Leslie’s and Julian’s books awhile before I heard about C.R. Mudgeon. Leslie’s first three picture books all came out in 2011 (Barry B. Wary, Gibbus Moony Wants to Bite You!, The Little Bitty Bakery). How could I not love an author who writes about eating, biting and baking? She’s a woman after my own heart.
And I was instantly taken with Julian’s work when I saw spreads and sketches for The Little Matador and The Gentleman Bug at 7-Imp. Love his sweet, diminutive characters — they’re imbued with a refreshing innocence and gentility, and always dressed in the coolest threads! When it comes to set design, natty wardrobes and period detail, Julian is your man.
So when I learned Leslie and Julian were doing a book together, I fairly swooned. It was the equivalent of having my cake and eating it too, a.k.a., eating killer soup in good clothes. ☺
You already know a little about C.R. Mudgeon, who likes things to stay the same every single day. His meal of choice?
See what I mean? Celery root soup, to be precise, with a side of dandelion tea and his Tuesday fig for dessert.
Every night he snuggled his hedgehoggity feet into his woolly slippers. He sat in the same old chair. He wore the same soft raveled sweater. And he read his favorite book — Medical Cures from A to Z — by the crackle of a single twig.
Thriving in his quiet routine, C.R. is thrown for a loop when a red poppy planting, flamboyant fashionista named Paprika moves into a nearby tree. Aye carumba, was there ever such a squirrel? Thanks to this ever zestful, talky tornado togged in swirly tiers, C.R. is beset by a rash of new maladies — spots, spots before his eyes, aching head from all her loud music, and (gasp!) his celery root soup doesn’t even taste right anymore. Everywhere he looks, C.R. Mudgeon sees RED. Voicing his complaints doesn’t do any good. Paprika continues to celebrate their newfound “friendship.” As a last resort, C.R. writes Paprika a serious letter, asking her to move away.
But lo and behold — the next night C.R. gets a headache because suddenly everything is too quiet. Paprika’s poppies have wilted. Has she already moved away? No, she’s sick — can C.R. find just the right cure for her whooping whiffles? More importantly, can she finally persuade him to shake his maracas?
The interesting dynamics between these two opposing personalities makes for a satisfying, heartwarming story. Both characters are well defined with an appeal all their own, thanks to Leslie’s perfectly honed text with its dashes of gentle humor, and Julian’s cozy charcoal and watercolor illos rendered in subdued woodsy hues.
I’m happy to report C.R.’s “cure” is all about food (see why I like Leslie’s work so much?). To nurse Paprika back to health, he adds a few things to his usual fare: lemon in the tea, salt in the soup, and the sweetest, most perfect fig he can find. Comfort food, a caring gesture, learning to be a friend. Not bad for a grumpy fuss budget who’s actually quite endearing. A great way to show kids the value of compromise and moderation, as well as the importance of being open to change for its unforeseen rewards. As Paprika says, “Good friends are the spice of life.” C.R. Mudgeon is the perfect read aloud, just what the doctor ordered, especially for shy kids and short grown-ups of the fuddy duddy persuasion.
So, are you ready to help me congratulate Leslie and Julian? Those of you sensitive to the aroma of spicy food may wish to place a clothespin on your nose, just as C.R. did when he first smelled Paprika’s cooking.
The mariachi band will be here all night, so feel free to get up and dance on the rim of the bowl. Team Celery, partner up with Team Chili Pepper. Double dipping is highly encouraged, hot sauce is optional. Grab your maracas and SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE! And S-L-U-R-P!
To go with your soup, some fresh figs, picked just moments ago by the Alphabet Soup kitchen helpers:
After you’ve polished off a few of those, salsa on over to the dessert table. Here’s the thing. If you want any of these desserts, you gotta shake for them. Give those maracas a good workout!
Hedgehog Cupcakes in honor of C.R.,
Poppies in honor of Paprika:
Keep shakin’ if you’d like some chili pepper cookies,
or tomato macarons (Paprika planted “a bazillion” cherry tomatoes near C.R. Mudgeon’s door):
Finally, to top things off, some chocolate acorns (cute, no?):
Whew! I think I put too much hot sauce in my soup, and I’ve shaken out all my wrinkles. I need to go put on my green woolly slippers, rest in my green overstuffed armchair, and see if there’s a medical cure for alphabetitis. (It’s scary how much C.R. and I are alike.)
Meanwhile, here’s what you need to do pronto: cha-cha, samba, rumba or tango over to your local indie or click through to your favorite online bookseller to score your very own copy of C.R. Mudgeon. If you go to a bricks and mortar store, you must wear something RED. Form a conga line with the people waiting at the checkout. Offer the cashier a glass of sangria, a stalk of celery or a chili pepper. You will make many friends. And for crying out loud, don’t forget the secret password: FIG!
Happy Pub Day, Leslie and Julian!
written by Leslie Muir
illustrated by Julian Hector
published by Atheneum BFYR, March 2012
Full-color Picture Book for ages 4-8, 32 pp.
Cool themes: friendship, neighbors, hedgehogs, squirrels, moderation, cooking, tolerance, acceptance, socializing.
On shelves now!
♥ Leslie Muir’s official website. Cool fact: An earlier version of this story, “C.R. Mudgeon’s Cure,” won the 2006 Smartwriter’s Write It Now! Grand Prize!
♥ Uber-cool Book Trailer created by Mr. Hector:
♥ More spreads and sketches from C.R. Mudgeon in this 7-Imp post.
♥ More Soup of the Day posts here.
♥ C.R.’s real-life counterpart, proof that hedgehogs have a decided penchant for mariachi bands:
Now, only a few burning questions remain:
What does C.R. stand for? (My guess: Celery Root)
Are you more like C.R. Mudgeon or Paprika?
This post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share food-related posts (fiction or nonfiction, film, or cookbook reviews, recipes or musings). Bon Appétit!
*Spreads posted by permission. Text copyright © 2012 Leslie Muir, illustrations © 2012 Julian Hector, published by Atheneum BFYR. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.