Written by Leslie Muir, Illustrated by Julian Hector
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012
C.R. Mudgeon ate the same supper every single night.
The plot in a nutshell: A set-in-his-ways hedgehog learns to live a little.
C.R. Mudgeon follows the same pattern every day until one day, a new neighbor named Paprika moves in next door. She is a boisterous squirrel who loves bright colors, cooks with lots of spices and plays with a mariachi band, which she invites Mudgeon to join. Fed up, he writes her a letter, asking her to move to a different house. The next night, everything seems too quiet so he goes to her house and finds that she’s sick. He makes her some of his favorite soup and she feels better. He sees that she hasn’t read his letter yet, so he takes it back and from then on, he joins in with the mariachi band.
I am always glad to see stories about hedgehogs (because I am a big fan of them and I also think hedgehog is just a great word), especially when you can really see why the author chose that species for her main character. C.R. Mudgeon’s personality is as prickly as his body is and the very suggestion of change seems to raise his quills. Off the top of my head, I can easily think of several people I’ve known who are just as set in their ways (and I have been guilty of sticking to routine and familiarity a little too much myself). His decision to write her the unkind letter asking her to move away almost made him into an unsympathetic character, but giving him the opportunity to regret his decision and take it back made up for it.
Julian Hector’s illustrations, in charcoal and watercolor, show us the contrast between Mudgeon’s simple home and Paprika’s vivacious décor. In the pictures, we see his frustration growing, so when it changes to caring for his new neighbor, it’s a big change. Astute observers will notice that it even causes a change in his clothing, when you see the drooping daisy on his sweater spring to life. I wouldn’t call this book a favorite, but it was a cute story and would probably be a good choice for kids who are reluctant to try new things.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that there is such a thing as too much routine.