Young readers may not know beforehand what a "curmudgeon" is, but so many kids are creatures of habit they'll sympathize with this hidebound hedgehog.
Charcoal-and-watercolor illustrations are softly colored in moss green, tree-bark brown, yellow ocher, pale blue and dusty rose, appropriate to the woodsy setting. C.R. himself is appealing; cute in spite of himself, with his pointy spines sticking up like recalcitrant hair, emphasizing his prickly nature. Reminiscent of Ereth the porcupine from Avi's Poppy stories, C.R. is outwardly grumpy and suspicious of anything new. When Paprika the squirrel moves in nearby, she plants bright poppies, enthusiastically greets him—immediately assuming they're friends—and cooks spicy food, the smell of which makes C.R. sneeze. It's not until the tables are turned, and Paprika is subdued by a case of the "whooping whiffles," that C. R. breaks out of his rut to care for her, realizing that, in fact, he has made a friend. As he learns to share his tastes with her, he even spices things up a little: adding salt to his celery soup, lemon to his dandelion tea.
This paean to the value of moderation, conveyed via a friendship story that will resonate with children, is just right for any kid who's wary of new things, and maybe a bit shy. (Picture book. 4-8)