________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 21 . . . . February 10, 2017


Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere.

Elise Gravel.
New York, NY: HarperCollins (Distributed in Canada by HarperCollins Canada), March, 2017.
164 pp., trade pbk., $15.99.
ISBN 978-0-06-235126-5.

Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.

Review by Crystal Sutherland.

**** /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.



The poop trail led right up to the shed door, which I approached on tiptoe because I'm not a fan of dark places where things might be lurking, and I didn't know what kind of thing might be in there.
That's when the mysterious poop began to glow in the dark.

Well, I don't know about you, but I declare this poop the COOLEST POOP EVER.

Maybe it was unicorn poop. What else could it be? There was only one way to know.

Olga is a weird kid and proud of it! She loves animals and actually prefers animals over people. Animals, unlike people, are easy to like and are always being cute. The only creature she has reservations about are mosquitoes, but she'd still pick mosquitoes over people any day. The LaLas, Olga's neighbours and least favourite people, Shalala and Farla, only care about how they look and Bip Bipbop, a teenage heartthrob. It's easy to understand why Olga would rather spend time alone, with her best friend, Rita the French-speaking spider, or dreaming up new animals by combining the best parts of existing ones: koalactupuses, turtledogs, and hedgefrogs sound way cooler than the LaLas. Even with her exceptional imagination, Olga would never have dreamt up the creature living in her shed, a creature whose poop looked like Skittles. This potato with legs, that Olga calls "Meh" based on the sound it makes, is the first real new species that Olga, a budding zoologist, has found, and she found it on her own! Despite the awful stench, which Olga hopes is from the garbage can Meh was sleeping in and is not natural, Meh is lovable and friendly. Because there's a lot Olga needs to learn about Meh, she smuggles Meh into the library for research.

      Ms. Swoop, the librarian, is very helpful, and Olga learns about tonnes of weird animals she hadn't heard of, but nothing that looks or acts like Meh. After comparing Meh to dogs at the park with help from Chuck, Olga is positive Meh isn't a dog, either. It occurs to Olga that Meh hasn't eaten in almost two days, and she has no idea what Meh eats. There's only one place weird enough to have food Meh would like: Mr Hoopah's "Stuff and Things and More!". With Mr Hoopah's help, Olga learns there's only one thing Meh likes: olives and only olives. While Olga's making a delicious olive soup for Meh (her own recipe), the worst thing that could happen happens: Meh disappears! Luckily Olga has a few cool, weird friends who help her search: Ms Swoop the librarian, Mr Hoopah the store owner, and Chuck from the dog park help Olga search high and low. It turns out Meh was in the last place Olga would look: the LaLas' house, where Meh received a makeover that Olga reversed immediately. Meh did come back smelling better though. Perhaps the LaLas, and people in general, aren't as awful as Olga thought.

      Every kid's felt like s/he was weird, and Olga is no different, except she's proud of her weirdness. She knows more about animals than any other kid and has imagined cool new animals made up of some of the strangest animals out there (who wouldn't want a horse with eight spider-like legs?).

      Readers will fall in love Olga and totally get her preference for animals over people: animals are almost always funny and cute, and they aren't judgmental like people often are, in particular the LaLas. When the LaLas return Meh safe and clean, Olga realizes she was being judgmental, too. People aren't as awful as she thought, although animals will always be better, especially Meh.

      The red, white, and black illustrations are playful and humourous and enhance the story as readers follow Olga on her adventure to understand more about the smelly, extremely cute, potato-shaped, meh-ing creature (whose burps sound like 'rubber') that she found in a garbage can.

      There's potential for great classroom activities based on Olga's adventure and interests: having students create their own unique animals along with 'facts' to share with classmates, in front of a class or one-on-one, zoologist-journalist interviews would fuel imagination and quick thinking.

      Laughter and glee will find everyone who encounters Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere!

Highly Recommended.

A MEd (Literacy) and MLIS graduate, Crystal Sutherland is a librarian living in Halifax, NS.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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