Written by Leslie Muir, pictures by Julian Hector, C.R. Mudgeon, is a gently humorous story about the pleasures of friendship and trying something new. C.R. Mudgeon is a hedgehog who lives a safe, quiet existence: Everything he does, from the bland supper that he eats to the medical reference book that he reads, is the same every night. But one day, his unexciting, routine-filled life is turned upside down when somebody new moves in to the tree next door. Paprika, a bright-eyed squirrel, is the total opposite of the curmudgeonly hedgehog: She loves bright colors, spicy food, and mariachi music. C.R. does his best to resist Paprika’s friendly overtures—even going so far as to write an angry letter asking her to move away to a “faraway tree.” But when the outgoing squirrel comes down with a case of “the whooping whiffles,” C.R.’s nurturing side kicks in. He consults his favorite medical book and cares for her. He also realizes that life without Paprika would be boring and lonely and that he’s made a new friend. (“Good friends are the spice of life,” says Paprika.) The last page shows the hedgehog letting down his guard, a maraca in each hand, joining wholeheartedly in Paprika’s weekly mariachi band practice.
Children’s literature is full of memorable friendships among animals of different species. Think Elephant and Piggie, Wilbur and Charlotte. What is your favorite odd couple?
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Sandra Lee Rella, mother of two budding bookworms, is a freelance editor and writer, and a former children’s book review editor.