“Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses: How James Kelly’s Nose Saved the New York City Subway


SK p3James “Smelly” Kelly used his super-senses and intelligence to make sure that the New York City subway in the 1930s ran safely throughout his lifetime and beyond.

James Kelly smelled EVERYTHING: rats in the shed; circus elephants a mile away; tomorrow’s rain. 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 SK p14“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.

Beth Anderson’s fast-paced text and Jenn Harney’s comical illustrations bring to life this everyday superhero.


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Anderson casts him in a heroic mold, as he had not only a special ability, but the inner motivation to use it in service to public safety: “With such an honor came great responsibility.” (Shades of Spider-Man.) Depicted with a confident smile and a mop of bright orange hair, Kelly shines as he goes after suggestive twists and curls of miasmic yellowish green in the illustrations’ succession of antique-looking street scenes and cross-sectional views of underground pipes and tunnels… Another immigrant gets the job done. ~Kirkus 

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Blog Articles and Interviews:

Unpacking the Power of Picture Books: “Nicknamed ‘Smelly’? Not a Bad Thing!” 

“Smelly” Kelly, Everyday Hero

Hardcover | $18.99
Published by Calkins Creek
Oct 13, 2020 | 40 Pages | 9 x 11 | 7-10 years| ISBN 9781684373994


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