Happy Monday! Welcome to the Kid Lit Love blog series where we spread a little love around our small and friendly writing community! Thanks for stopping by. Today, we feature Beth Anderson and her book, “SMELLY” KELLY and his SUPER SENSES illustrated by Jenn Harney, published by Calkins Creek.
James Kelly smelled EVERYTHING.
Rats in the shed.
Circus elephants a mile away.
His sense of smell was EXTRAORDINARY. But what good was a powerful nose? How could his super-sniffer make him special?
In the New York City subway, James found his calling—and earned the nickname “Smelly” Kelly. Armed with his super-sniffer and the tools he invented, he tracked down leaks from the dangerous to the disgusting, from the comical to the bizarre. Then, he sprang into action to prevent cave-ins and explosions in the tunnels beneath the city. Smelly Kelly not only hunted leaks but also saved lives—and he discovered the truly extraordinary power inside him.
Welcome, Beth, to the Kid Lit Love blog. It is a pleasure to feature your new book…congratulations on its upcoming publication!
Please tell us about the inspiration for your book.
First, thank you so much, Cynthia, for your invitation to share a bit about “Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses, releasing Oct. 13.
I chanced upon an article about James “Smelly” Kelly and was immediately intrigued and entertained by his story. First and foremost, I found inspiration in the character, a man with an extraordinary sense of smell (that could be both a curse and a blessing), and how he was able to find a special place in the world to put that odd talent to use for the benefit of the greater community. And…the article made me laugh! That was enough for me to dig in, but I knew I’d have to find more than that to inspire a full story.
Next I found inspiration in the fascinating underground world of rapidly growing New York City. His story involved the intersection of social studies and science topics. Children study transportation, community, occupations, electricity, and engineering ideas separately, but in real life they interact in a maze of cause and effect relationships. I loved that!
I’d found so much potential in the character and setting that I really didn’t want to give up on this idea. I needed to find inspiration for an emotional layer. As I dug deeper, I saw an opportunity to tell the story of an everyday hero and explore the idea of what really makes a hero a hero. Kids often wonder what talents they hold inside, wish for “super powers” that will make them heroes, and, through childhood, search for their place in the world. That strong emotional connection for kids provided inspiration on how to frame the story. The era of the story, 1930s and 1940s, was when superheroes emerged in our culture, and I saw so many parallels between the “superhero” and James Kelly. So alongside the serious thread about heroism, I had lots of fun sneaking in superhero references and building that imagery throughout. I think because there was so little on James Kelly, I had to find these three levels of inspiration to make his story happen.
Superheroes are so popular with children. I love how fiction and non-fiction come together with this book.
What do you hope readers will gain from your book?
I hope kids will enjoy learning about this everyday hero who put his heart into his job and served the community. We have everyday heroes all around us who go unnoticed, yet provide services that keep us safe in so many ways. Noticing and appreciating these people and seeing dignity in all kinds of professions is valuable for all of us. I want kids to know that we all have something to offer, and it doesn’t have to be a glamorous talent.
I also hope to spark their curiosity with the bizarre, dangerous, and humorous experiences of James Kelly as the first “leak detective” for the subway in New York City. I’d like to get them thinking about consequences and connections in our world, as well as asking questions and exploring ideas and topics they haven’t thought about before.
Some of our blog readers also write for children…Could you share a piece of advice for children’s writers?
It’s so very easy to get discouraged on this author journey with so many ups and downs and getting stuck. I think most of us have a point where we wonder if we’ll ever reach that goal of “published.” Without positive response to your work, it’s easy to conclude that you aren’t making any progress. But…if you take a moment to pull out an early manuscript and compare it to where you are at today, you’ll probably find a lot to celebrate. You are progressing and growing as a writer. Acknowledge that. And then use those rejections to help find where you need to focus your learning. Another tip that really helped me—instead of making a TO DO list, make a DONE list for each month in pursuit of your efforts to reach your goal. With each class you take, craft book you read, submission you do, blog post you read, draft you worked on, critique partner you share with, add it to your list. You might surprise yourself with all you’re actively doing. And that’s definitely worth a pat on the back.
Thanks so much for sharing your words of encouragement. I love how the kid lit community is like a village and a very positive one that works to celebrate each other’s work and build each other up as we work to hone our craft.
Beth’s website: https://bethandersonwriter.com
Connect with Beth on twitter: https://twitter.com/BAndersonWriter
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More books by Beth Anderson:
AN INCONVENIENT ALPHABET, BEN FRANKLIN AND NOAH WEBSTER’S SPELLING REVOLUTION
Illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley, Simon & Schuster 2018, ISBN 9781534405554Free Educator Guide from S&S Finalist Colorado Book Awards – Children’s Literature
LIZZIE DEMANDS A SEAT: ELIZABETH JENNINGS FIGHTS FOR STREETCAR RIGHTS, illustrated by E.B. Lewis, Calkins Creek, ISBN 9781629799391 1/7/2020Free Educator Guide
TAD LINCOLN’S RESTLESS WRIGGLE: PANDEMONIUM, PATIENCE, AND PROTEST IN THE PRESIDENT’S HOUSE, illustrated by S.D. Schindler, Calkins Creek, Fall 2021
REVOLUTIONARY PRUDENCE WRIGHT: LEADING THE MINUTE WOMEN IN THE FIGHT FOR INDEPENDENCE,illustrated by Susan Reagan, Calkins Creek. Spring 2022
FRANZ’S PHANTASMAGORICAL MACHINE, illustrated by Caroline Hamel, Kids Can Press, spring 2022.
THOMAS JEFFERSON’S BATTLE FOR SCIENCE: BIAS, TRUTH, AND A MIGHTY MOOSE, illustrated by Jeremy Holmes, Calkins Creek, Fall 2022.
Thank you for stopping by. You are welcome any time. Look out for more books featured on Mondays here on Kid Lit Love!
I am back to work full time now, so the Monday posts may be a little less frequent but the series WILL continue so keep coming back as the authors really appreciate your support, especially now during the pandemic.
And I hope you’ll check out my books as well.