By Leslie Muir • Illustrated by Julian Hector
Atheneum • 2012 • 32 pages
Though stubborn and set in his ways, C.R. Mudgeon is a lovable character indeed. Still, despite given the starring role in this eponymous book, it is C.R.’s new neighbor, Paprika, who ends up stealing the show. With sass to match Ms. Frizzle’s of Magic School Bus (Scholastic) fame, and the spunkiness of Lily, from Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse (Greenwillow, 1996), Paprika finds wonderful cures for all that ails C.R.
Illustrator Hector beautifully renders the hedgehog’s stable existence in contrast to the squirrel’s blissful outlook on life through the use of charcoal and watercolor. Kudos must be given to Hector for depicting Paprika’s Latina heritage so joyfully, and to Muir for creating the wonderful character in the first place. The Mexican proverb at the beginning of the book (A person born to be a flowerpot will not go beyond the porch.) makes much more sense once you finish reading the tale of this unlikely, yet complementary friendship.
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In the end, Paprika has some sound advice for C.R.: Good friends are the spice of life. And, indeed, C.R. does (as one would hope, readers would as well) learn the good that can come from shaking some maracas every now and again.
—Reviewed by Marietta B. Zacker, Book Curator at Sparkhouse in South Orange, NJ