Raquel Jaramillo, Workman's children's book director, said what turned her head was Muller's fresh, minimalist style — "sophisticated yet adorable."
Releasing three at once is unusual, Jaramillo says, done to establish Mirabelle as a character right out of the box.
In the books, Mirabelle is rendered with an oversize head and huge, upright ears. The eyes are wide and alert. Muller wasn't originally going to put himself in the storyline but Workman insisted, saying his relationship with the dog was the story. And so he became Mr. Muller, Mirabelle's be-spectacled, bow-tied sidekick.
"I thought that the real uniqueness was her relationship with Mr. Muller, that sweet rapport they have between them," Jaramillo says, adding it's very parent-and-child. "Just walking down the block is magical when you're the parent of a child, nothing is taken for granted. That's what Mirabelle brings to play for the reader -- every small tiny moment. Jumping over a puddle becomes an adventure."
In the books — not unlike in real life — Mirabelle and Mr. Muller explore the world together. He learns from the pup's curiosity and joie de vivre.
"She's fascinated by a blowing leaf," Muller says. "If we all could go out and find simple joys how much happier would we be?"
Mirabelle continues to lead Muller and Boeke on adventures. Next year they'll embark on a cross-country promotional tour. In recent weeks they've flitted from one local book event to another — Sunday they'll be signing books and selling Mirabelle merchandise at Merry Mart.
After a book signing last week in Hampden, Muller posted a picture on Mirabelle's Facebook page where he's seated at a table, Mirabelle goods spread out before him and Mirabelle is sitting on his lap. She's got one paw on the table, as if she's the one about to sign something. (She actually does a sort-of autograph — Muller's made stickers of her real paw print and puts them in books next to his signature.)
Even so, at Muller's cozy row house, Mirabelle is just a dog, curling up next to him every night when he goes to sleep and hanging out in his home office during the day while he works. They still walk the neighborhood, she still plays with her now famous bouncy red ball and still enjoys home-cooked meals of chicken and rice — no ordinary kibble for a star.
"She changed the direction of my life," Muller says. "She's an amazing little dog."
IF YOU GO
Catch Michael Muller and Tom Boeke this weekend at Merry Mart where they'll be selling Mirabelle books and other Mirabelle merchandise. Mirabelle herself might make a guest appearance.
Where: Creative Alliance at the Patterson
When: Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information: merrymartbaltimore.blogspot.com