Olga and the Smelly Thing From Nowhere by Elise Gravel, 170pp, RL 4
Last year I reviewed The Cranky Ballerina by Elise Gravel. I LOVED the story of Ada and her profound dislike of ballet class and the marvelous resolution. Gravel's book is filled with humor, curious creatures and crankiness in the perfect combination. I was pretty excited when when Gravel's first novel, and first book in a series, Olga and the Smelly Thing From Nowhere showed up on my doorstep.
Olga lets readers know what they are in for right on the cover, where she identifies herself as a grumpy kid in a book featuring, "a lot of weird science,"some annoying humans," "cute animals" and "strange dogs that pee." Between the covers is Olga's scientific observation notebook in which she details her love of animals ("even their farts are cute"), particularly one that proves a challenge to identify.
Olga tells readers, "being an observer of all things animal, I have seen many a poop in my time." But, she's never seen rainbow poop, which she immediately declares the "COOLEST POOP EVER!" Venturing into the shed, she finds an unidentifiable creature who, at various points in the book is referred to as a "fart balloon," and a, "cross between a hamster and a potato drawn by a three-year-old." Based on the noise he makes most often, Olga names the animal Meh and, after much scientific observation and research at the library with the cool, punk rock librarian with protruding teeth, Ms. Swoop, she declares Meh to be from the new species Olgamus Ridiculous!
Species and name sorted, Olga and Meh have other hurdles to overcome. There is the visit to the dog park, where they meet Mister and Chuck, a boy who "had a haircut that looked like an angry kid had drawn it." And Meh doesn't seem to like any of the foods Olga tries on him. But, Mr. Hoopah and his off-brand store, Stuff 'n' Things 'n' More (featuring awesome items like seatloaf scented scratch-and-sniff nail polish, nacho-scented toiled paper and glow-in-the-dark toilet brushes) save the day. One final hurdle involves the "annoying humans" from the cover of the book, Farla and Shalala, known collectively as the Lalas, Olga'a neighbors who are obssessed with K-Pop star Bib Bibop, and fashion magazines and a missing Meh.
It was hard to limit myself to listing the brilliant details of Olga and the Smelly Thing From Nowhere, not to mention rhapsodizing about Meh and his cute-disgustingness. But, I do need to say that it is rare to find an illustrator who is a great writer or a wonderful writer who is gifted illustrator. Elise Gravel is all of these things. The honesty and humor combined with the weird adorableness of the characters she draws feels like perfection. I can't wait to read book two in the Olga series, which should be coming in 2018. Until then, I'll be reading Gravel's other books, as seen below.
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Be sure to visit Elise Gravel's website for download of this awesome poster!
Source: Review Copy