So who are Mudgy and Millie you ask?
Mudgy Moose and his playmate Millie Mouse are whimsical creations from best-selling author and Coeur d’Alene resident Susan Nipp. With her vision and the assistance of renowned illustrator Charles Reasoner, the two characters come to life in the new children’s book, Mudgy & Millie. The hide-and-seek game depicted in the book will take form in the real world as a public art project--- The Mudgy Moose Trail. The book and the trail are sponsored as a community project by the Coeur d’Alene Public Library Foundation.
MUDGY & MILLIE: THE BOOK
As a child, Susan had read “Make Way for Ducklings” by Robert McCloskey and learned about the city of Boston. When her daughter-in-law recently visited the city, she took pictures of the bronze sculptures of Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings in the Boston Public Garden and sent them to Susan. Thus, the creative juices began. Susan has been in publishing for over 30 years as the co-author of the popular Wee Sing series of musical books, CDs, and videos. Over 70 Wee Sing titles have been created and 50 million products have been sold worldwide. With this background, she thought it was time to write a non-musical book for her home town. How could the city of Coeur d’Alene be explored just as McCloskey’s mallards explored Boston? The Mudgy and Millie characters were inspired as she hiked through the forest near her home overlooking Lake Coeur d’Alene. “We often see moose on our hill, so Mudgy was a natural,” Nipp said, explaining the characters’ genesis. “I envisioned his playmate as a skunk or a porcupine, but then decided that it should be an animal opposite in size with the moose and Millie Mouse was born.”
But, what would the premise be to take the moose and mouse around town? A game of hideand- seek was the solution to showcase the features of the town that she most enjoyed.
“I love to walk the Boardwalk, discover the first buttercups of spring on Tubbs Hill, and enjoy the City Park, so I incorporated all these elements in the book. It was important for me to include our new public library and then I needed to end the story overlooking the lake so Independence Point was the perfect spot,” she said. “I wanted the reader to feel the beauty and joy of our community and hopefully the book will provide a glimpse of Coeur d’Alene and the sights that make our community so special.”
Mudgy & Millie is beautifully illustrated by Charles Reasoner who has created and illustrated over 400 children’s books during his 30 year career. The book will be published by Eastern Washington University Press and is scheduled to go on sale this September.
CREATING THE MUDGY MOOSE TRAIL
Rather than having just one bronze sculpture in town, Susan developed the idea of creating several life-size Mudgy and Millie sculptures that could be placed along the path that Mudgy follows in the book. She turned to friend, wildlife artist, and fellow Coeur d’Alene resident Terry Lee to bring the book’s characters to life.
“I love Terry’s style of art and his compassion for his subject matter,” she said. “He was the perfect person to take Chuck Reasoner’s drawings and create life-size, three-dimensional Mudgy and Millie characters which could then be placed strategically along The Mudgy Moose Trail.”
Terry spent the next few months in his Coeur d’Alene studio working closely with Susan to create the moose which reflected the author’s concept of how Mudgy should appear. The project progressed from cardboard to foam to wax as the moose was refined and enlarged to its final seven-foot height. With the hooves, antlers and other anatomical features of the moose finalized, Lee turned his attention to Millie Mouse.
“The creation of the mouse was extremely involved. It was a challenge to take Chuck’s conceptual drawings and create a three-dimensional figure that was both delicate and charming, yet able to withstand the punishment that the sculptures will be subjected to once they are placed along the trail,” he said.
In all, Lee is creating five of the bronze sculptures which will be placed along the 2 1/4 mile Mudgy Moose Trail. The trail will begin at the base of Tubbs Hill, then go to the Coeur d’Alene Public Library. From the Library, it will pass through the downtown Coeur d’Alene business district, around the Boardwalk at The Coeur d’Alene Resort, through the City Park and end at Independence Point. A sculpture will be located at each of these sites except the Boardwalk.
The bronze sculptures were cast and assembled at Cire Perdue Foundry in Hayden Lake under Lee’s direction. Randy Raak, with Sunshine Minting in Coeur d’Alene, was contracted to assist with production of the base art which will list the sponsors of each of the seven-foot tall sculptures. The Library Foundation, under the direction of Executive Director Ruth Pratt, raised the funds to cover the costs associated with publishing the book and creating the sculptures. All costs, which will exceed $125,000, were raised through private sponsorships from Coeur d’Alene-area individuals and businesses.
The Mudgy Moose Trail is being developed by the City of Coeur d’Alene Parks & Recreation Department with the blessing of the Coeur d’Alene City Council and Mayor Sandi Bloem. The Coeur d’Alene Arts Commission will cover the costs of site development and installation of the five sculptures. The Mudgy Moose Trail will be dedicated on September 13th and will be open to the public at no cost on a year-round basis.
BOOK ROYALTIES DONATED TO THE LIBRARY
The authors are donating all book royalties generated from sales of the Mudgy & Millie picture book to the Coeur d’Alene Public Library Foundation. In addition, the Library Foundation has been given the rights to merchandising created from the book which will help endow the Library in the years to come.
Nipp has served on the Library Foundation Board of Directors since its inception in 1995 and calls her decision to donate the project “a gift to the community.”
For additional information contact:
Dr. Ruth Pratt, Executive Director, Coeur d’Alene Public Library Foundation, Inc. 208/769-2380
or visit www.mudgyandmillie.com