________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIII Number 3. . . .September 23, 2016


What’s That Smell? (Mitzi Tulane Preschool Detective).

Lauren McLaughlin. Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi.
New York, NY: Random House (Distributed in Canada by Random House Canada), 2016.
32 pp., hardcover (trade & lib. bdg.) & ebook, $21.99 (trade), $25.99 (lib. bdg).
ISBN 978-0-449-81915-9 (trade), ISBN 978-0-375-97176-1 (lib. bdg.), ISBN 978-0-375-98160-9 (ebook).

Preschool-kindergarten / Ages 3-5.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

*** /4

Reviewed from f&g’s.


American screenwriter and young adult novelist Lauren McLaughlin has written this pleasant little picture book about a curious preschooler named Mitzi.

     Mitzi is accustomed to finding clues about what is going on in the kitchen by following her nose.

There was breakfast, which smelled of burnt toast. There was lunch, which smelled of peanut butter. And there was dinner,
which smelled of burnt chicken.

     Today, not only are there unfamiliar noises in the kitchen but smells Mitzi cannot place, and her mother seems to be very busy. Conferring with Baby Kev does not help. Mitzi asks for an opinion about what is going on, but, given that Baby Kev looks to be about six-months-old, the fact that none is forthcoming is not surprising.

Baby Kev didn’t say much. But he had a lot of time to think.

So Mitzi left him to mull the facts of the case while she went
out to search for more clues.

     Daddy’s gotten shaved, and now guests are arriving. (I like that we read the names of grandparents, aunts and cousins on the guest list but see only their feet lined up across the page.)

     Now out comes the cake (green and purple, Mitzi’s favourite colours) with four candles on it (Mitzi knows that “last time she checked” she was three years old). “HOLY MACARONI!” It’s Mitzi’s birthday.

     Illustrator Debbie Ohi, who lives in Toronto, is responsible for the artwork on the new boxed set of Judy Blume’s primary novels, and she is also writing her own picture book at the moment. Here, she has produced what seem to be her signature crayon-box-coloured, black-outlined figures depicting a busy middle-class household. Interestingly, although the parents and Baby Kev are Caucasian, Mitzi is a curly-headed black girl.

     The wry humour here – for example, when mother is in the middle of the cake baking, “she burned her hand in the oven and said words that Mitzi has never heard” – will entertain adults while the mystery element will intrigue young children.

     The heading on the title, “Mitzi Tulane, Preschool Detective”, may indicate that this is the start of a series.

     This book for larger picture book collections is -


Ellen Heaney, a retired children’s librarian, lives in Coquitlam, BC.

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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