A mystery for young readers to sniff out.
When little Elliot awakens one morning, he smells something bad but can’t figure out what it is. He follows his nose around the house, sure he can find the malodorous source, but remains stumped. It’s not something under his bed, nor is it a skunk or something else outside. It’s neither his dad, his little sister, the baby, nor the dog—it’s not even Grandma’s mysterious Gefartzenschnaffer bubbling on the stovetop. Even as he searches, however, Elliot’s mother scolds him for wearing his Halloween costume for yet another day, which may prompt attentive readers to guess that Elliot himself is the mysterious, eponymous something that smells. Sure enough, when Elliot’s mother brings the costume to the wash, Henry illustrates a green stench wafting from it as she holds it out in front of her with just thumb and forefinger. Such details help the illustrations throughout the book match the clever, engaging text’s achievement. They adopt a style reminiscent of Barbara McClintock’s work, with ample crosshatching and deft use of watercolor and gouache. It’s a bit odd that an elder sibling appears in pictures but is never mentioned in text (not even as a possible source of stench), but apart from this misstep, the book is a cohesive whole. The family all presents white.
Smells pretty good. (Picture book. 3-7)