“Smelly” Kelly and his Super Senses: How James Kelly’s Nose Saved the New York City Subway – written by Beth Anderson, illustrated by Jenn Harney


 “Smelly” Kelly and his Super Senses: How James Kelly’s Nose Saved the New York City Subway – written by Beth Anderson, illustrated by Jenn Harney, Calkins Creek, 9781684373994, 2020

Format: Hardcover

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Genre: Biography

What did you like about the book? This picture book biography follows the fun story of James Kelly, who used his remarkable sense of smell to solve many problems in the New York City subway system and elsewhere around the city. Readers will find both the text and illustrations about his sense of smell humorous, but also be amazed at how a strong sense of smell could help detect dripping water, gas leaks, and broken pipes. Though a relatively ordinary man, he used his unique talents and big heart to do a lot of good. The illustrations are often dark and muted, making the yellow smells and his orange hair stand out even more. Backmatter includes additional details about James Kelly’s life, the tools he used and invented, the underground system in NYC, and a note about the research process. I particularly appreciated the honesty in the author’s note, explaining that there is actually very little information about James Kelly to research, and so some parts of the beginning of the book are fictionalized based on what she could find about his childhood. There is also a reminder for young readers of the numerous other people we know little about but who still led extraordinary lives.

Anything you did not like about the book. Nothing

To whom would you recommend this book? This would be a good book for readers looking for a biography about trains, transportation, or construction. I would also give it to readers who like reading about gross jobs or unique inventions. 

Who should buy this book? Elementary school librarians, public librarians

Where would you shelve it? Biographies

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Sarah Bickel, Greenlodge Elementary School, Dedham Massachusetts

Date of review: Dec. 21, 2020

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