The heroine in “Mrs. Muddle’s Holidays” by Laura R. Nielsen wears no cape, but a dowdy purple overcoat, which accompany her bifocals and gray hair pushed back by two small pink bows. Her name is Mrs. Muddle. When she moves onto Maple Street, the neighborhood children, who thought they “celebrated just about every holiday there was” were about to discover wildly fun new ones, such as “Earthworm Appreciation Day,” “Birthday of the Inventor of the Roller Skate,” and the annual “Garlic Jubilee” among others, thanks to their unassuming new neighbor.
Mrs. Muddle is so unassuming that the children seek her out, and ask to join in her celebrations when they see how interesting they are, such as placing colored yarn in the trees for the first robin birds of spring to make their nests. As the book progresses, Mrs. Muddle casually leads the children around their own neighborhood, exposing them to the delicious details of ordinary life. Subtlety is the golden thread woven through the tapestry of this 32-page hardback, as Mrs. Muddle does not teach so many lessons but simply has fun with the children, and they learn their own lessons through the novelty holidays.
Mrs. Muddle is seemingly whimsical and random in her festivals, but is slyly exposing the kids to nature, hard work, their own imagination and the art of pickling garlic. Mrs. Muddle’s holidays are a potent antidote to the TV/computer/video game habit kids and adults alike tend to fall into.
Mrs. Muddle is quite clever with her interactions with the kids; when they want to join in her “Earthworm Olympics” she invites them to play and then tells them: “But you have to find your own worms in your own gardens.” After just one of Mrs. Muddle’s holidays on a Saturday in May, suddenly Maple Street is a leader in the sustainable food effort.
If one is wavering about spending $16.95 on “Mrs. Muddle’s Holidays”, Thomas F. Yezerski, the illustrator, makes that decision easy, for his beautifully blended watercolors tucked into tight black ink drawings are as rich and thoughtful as the text. The main character has kind eyes and has the nurturing body language of a grandma. Yezerski’s double-page scene of “Let’s Pretend It’s Summer Day” with the entire neighborhood and their various activities shows great detail, like a “Where’s Waldo” scene little audiences will discover surprises in. While many will agree we have plenty of holidays on the calendar already, this book will inspire readers to make up a few of their own.