Elem. – It’s Okay to Smell Good

Tharp, Jason. It’s Okay to Smell Good. Imprint, 2021. 978-1-250-31133-7. 32 p. $18.99. Grades K-3. 

Panda Cat (a skunk) lives in Smellsville, one of the stinkiest places imaginable. He begins each day by making himself as smelly as possible thanks to his garlic and onion toothpaste and rotten egg hair gel. He also smears moldy mayonnaise into his armpits, guzzles spoiled milk with his breakfast, and eats toast with toejam and rotten apples. When he arrives at school, his friends share the news that celebrity stink-scientist Smellbert Einstink will be judging their science fair. Later that afternoon, Panda Cat practices his experiment: making the stinkiest soap ever. But, something goes terribly wrong. Even though he adds the smelliest ingredients he can find, the soap somehow comes out bright pink, smelling like cotton candy and sugar cookies. And, to Panda Cat’s horror, he finds that he actually kind of loves the smell. He wonders if he secretly likes smell-good stuff, but he’s too worried about being different from everyone else and sadly flushes the soap down the toilet. The next day at the science fair, Panda Cat repeats his experiment, and this time, his concoction smells even better: like caramel apples, sugar cookies, cotton candy, and strawberries! Panda Cat is worried about looking like a failure in front of everyone, but Smellbert Einstink confides one of his biggest regrets is that his work has created a world where stinky smells replaced nice scents. He asks Panda Cat to consider how we can ever truly appreciate really stinky things without nice smells to compare them to. He also reassures Panda Cat that it’s okay to like whatever you like, even if it makes you feel different than everyone else.

THOUGHTS: This title celebrates the idea that it’s okay to have your own preferences and like what you like, even if those tastes make you stand out from the crowd. It will be a good conversation-starter during morning meetings and will also be a crowd pleaser thanks to multiple references to farts, ear-wax, and other gross-out humor.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD

Another Book About Bears

Bunting, Laura, and Philip Bunting. Another Book About Bears. Kane Miller, 2020. 978-1-684-64084-3. 32 p. $14.99. Grades K-3. 

Have you ever thought about how many books feature bears in starring roles? Well, the bears are sick and tired of doing all the work! Just as this story is getting started, the leading bear rebels, speaking directly to the reader, and recounting all of his unappealing characteristics. Aside from being greedy and grumpy, he reminds readers bears are also lazy, a bit ferocious, and, frankly, exhausted! The bear quits the story, agreeing to come back only if he can’t find a better animal to star in the story. He grabs his trusty phone, calling up animal after animal, but no one is quite right. The elephant is too big, the crow too noisy, the crab too pinchy, and the peacock too fancy. Eventually, the bear and the reader make a deal, and students will laugh out loud at the final page’s compromise. Large, graphic illustrations brim with personality and perfectly match the text’s sly humor.

THOUGHTS: Since this story is set up as a conversation between a bear and the reader, it could be used as a mentor text for teaching voice during writing workshops. It might also be fun to challenge students to brainstorm all the books they can think of featuring bears as main characters and have them reimagine the stories with other animals playing the bear’s leading role.

Picture Book          Anne Bozievich, Southern York County SD