soup of the day: c.r. mudgeon by leslie muir and julian hector

Alphabet Soup Curmudgeons give this book a 3 pins up!

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.

This book is hot stuff!

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?

Soup! *faints*

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!

Today’s Special: Curmudgeon Chowder (seasoned with celery salt, a twist of lemon and gobs of paprika).

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.,

via cupcake envy

Poppies in honor of Paprika:

via Cutie Cupcakes

Keep shakin’ if you’d like some chili pepper cookies,

via Bambina Mia

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?):

(click for recipe)

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!

C.R. Mudgeon
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!

♥ Julian Hector’s official website and blog. Read this interesting post about how he created the last illustration for the book.

♥ Uber-cool Book Trailer created by Mr. Hector:

♥ More spreads and sketches from C.R. Mudgeon in this 7-Imp post.

♥ Professional Reviews: Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly

♥ 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?

And now, what are we supposed to do with all these cherry tomatoes?


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.

57 thoughts on “soup of the day: c.r. mudgeon by leslie muir and julian hector

  1. Didn’t know you guys liked hedgehogs. I always think about Mrs. Tiggywinkle :). Definitely a darling book. Julian draws a good bowl of soup!


  2. This looks like a fantastic book, and I love the many pictures you’ve included here. Nice bit of color and spice for a winter’s day.


    1. Glad you enjoyed your little spice fix today, Adrienne. Haven’t identified with a picture book character this closely in a long time. Maybe the “r” in the C.R. stands for Rattigan . . . 🙂


  3. This looks really cute! The Gentleman Bug caught my eye last year, too, with its charming illustrations. And though I’m reluctant to admit it, I’m way more like C.R. Mudgeon than the lively Miss Paprika.


    1. Glad I’m not the only curmudgeon in these parts. But isn’t there a comfortable security in liking things the same every day? Julian did a wonderful job of making C.R. very endearing and appealing.


    1. Thanks, Julian. The soup shown here was my second attempt. First time around I actually used cream of celery soup and the green letters didn’t show up very well in the photo.

      Even though I haven’t met either of you in person, from the first time I read this I thought you were C.R. and Leslie was Paprika in real life. I wonder what Leslie’s wardrobe looks like :).


  4. I love hedgehoggy things – so ‘fig’ there’s the password! Thanks for another delicious post, Jama, & for the heads up with this review. This book looks just wonderful. I think, however, I love most that photo of the real hedgehog-very fun. Thanks!


  5. Jama, you’re too much! I’m glad I read your whole post, because I REALLY wanted to know what the deal was with the clothespins on the noses.

    And what wonderful food photos! My two favorites are the bowl of “curmudgeon chowder”, and the tomato macaroons with the celery decoration. But they all look yummy. — PL


    1. Len found those clothespins in the basement. We hadn’t used them for over a decade — they were still attached to the old clothesline we had in our old house. It was a little challenging finding three “volunteers” with small enough snouts for the pinchy pins. The anteater was happy to receive some attention for a change. They all earned extra chocolate and honey for their sacrifices.


    1. It’s lots of fun — not every day you get clothespins, figs, maracas and Volcano hot sauce in the same book. And the all-important soup, of course. 🙂


  6. Jama, This is such a beautiful, thoughtful post (I’m all teary-eyed). As you know, I couldn’t pull up your photos because of the hubby’s kid-blocks until tonight, and I must say: I’m totally blown away. I’m all hedgehoggity-warm, like C.R.’s slippers, and squirrelly-hyper-happy because because of your beautiful generosity. Gosh. Gush. Wow.


    1. Thanks for the gushing and the wows, Leslie. The pleasure is mine :). Thanks to you and Julian for creating such a fabulous book. I reeeeeealllly identify with C.R. 🙂


  7. What a delightful blog about a wonderful book! I loved all the fun food pictures to compliment the text. Those edible acorns looked precious and probably pretty easy to make!
    Thanks!! And congratulations Leslie and Julian!


    1. Those chocolate acorns definitely look doable. Pretty simple instructions. Very clever to think of using Hershey kisses for them.


  8. As usual, I’m fashionably late to the party (okay, way beyond fashionably – I’ll need some lessons from Paprika) – but I finally got a chance to indulge in this multi-course celebration and I couldn’t be happier for Leslie (and congrats to Julian, and too!) or more impressed with your usual sweet/spicy surprises, Jama. Hedgehoggity cheers for all!


    1. No party would be complete without the fashionably late guests, Robyn. Of course I’ve saved some cupcakes and cookies just for you. You’re going to have to shake for them, of course :).


  9. ^^^THUD^^^

    I just swooned for the sweet book and then, hedgehog cupcakes.



    1. Oh, a thud and a fig! Glad you enjoyed the post, Cathy. For the thud alone, you deserve an extra hedgehog cupcake. 🙂


  10. Love this. I could eat soup every day too — but I already love my spice! And those hedgehog cupcakes are just waaaaaay too cute.


    1. Good idea for the tomatoes, Carol. I don’t like them in salads for some reason, though I like regular tomatoes. I think it’s the squish factor :).


  11. Jama – What a FABULOUS review. LOVE it!! I like the Teddies with clothes pins on their noses. Guess what!?!! We have two hedgehogs – Bubbles and Mr. Needlemouse…I wish I could attach a pic…


  12. What a delightful post! So much fun to read. 😀 I love all the visuals. Hedgehog cupcakes?! SO cute! The book looks absolutely charming and educational, too!

    I am more like Paprika, although my wardrobe isn’t quite as flamboyant. 😉


    1. Those acorns look easy and delish. I’m sure your grandkids will enjoy this book. Thanks for the nice comment, Peggy Ann.


  13. Hands down, one of the very best blog posts I’ve ever read! I loved every word and every picture/illustration. And I just ordered the book from Barnes & Noble. How could I possibly resist?! Thanks so much.


    1. Thanks so much for your enthusiasm, Nan! I’m SO glad you ordered the book :). Of course you know this means you have to make some celery root soup with cherry tomatoes on the side.


  14. This is seriously the most fun book review I’ve ever seen 🙂 And those lovely illustrations make me want the book all the more (and I don’t even have children)!


  15. What a fantastic post! It made me want to take a look at the book, to eat a cupcake, to find new slippers all in one go!


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