Wednesday, 11 January 2017

The Incredible Smell

Welcome to the shadowy and not-so-shadowy space behind Sally's books. That's Sally Odgers; author, manuscript assessor, editor, anthologist and reader. (Sally is me, by the way, and I am lots of other things too, but these are the relevant ones for now.)

The goal for 2017 is to write a post a day profiling the background behind one of my books; how it came to be written, what it's about, and any things of note that happened along the way. If you're an author, an aspiring author, a reader or just someone who enjoys windows into worlds, you might find this fun. This preamble will be pasted to the top of each post, so feel free to skip it in future.

The books are not in any special order, but will be assigned approximate dates, and pictures, where they exist.

The Incredible Smell Post 11

The Incredible Smell (1993) is one of several of my books prompted by a single incident or comment. One of my children was in a "parent involved" play group, which meant a parent or stand-in had to be present, though the children played with one another rather than with their caregivers. While the kids painted, rode tricycles, dressed up and ran about, I used to spend most of the time with two or three other mums who shared some of my interests in books, plants and such. (Many of the others, though perfectly friendly, were more interested in basketball and other things I either didn't care for or just didn't understand.) Three of us particularly used to hang together and on one occasion two of us had got to the cup of tea stage before our third friend arrived with her child.
"What happened to you?" we asked.

She rolled her eyes and said, "There was this incredible smell."

It devolved that there was a strange smell under her enclosed terrace, and she couldn't leave home without identifying it. As it turned out, it was a nest of eggs that had gone off.

Of course, I just had to write a book about that, and equally of course, I changed things around so the incredible smell rolled down Platypus Street with all the residents coming up with their own theories for what was causing it.

The villain was Fritz, the long-nosed dog, who had discovered a nest of stale eggs and found a use for them...

The Incredible Smell, dedicated to my play group friend, was one I often read aloud during school visits. It, like Dreadful David (see Post 3) was immensely popular with just about all age groups. The format, paperback with lots of black and white illustrations and even some speech bubbles, was also popular with reluctant and less able readers, because it supported reading with short text (under 1500 words, I seem to remember) but lots of pages.

Part of its popularity probably lay in the cover, which generally garnered a burst of laughter from a class as soon as I held it up. A lot of people, you know, do judge a book by its cover!

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