Posted by: Kathy Temean | December 29, 2020

Book Giveaway: “SMELLY KELLY” AND HIS SUPER SENSES by Beth Anderson

Author Beth Anderson has a new picture book, “SMELLY KELLY” AND HIS SUPER SENSES: How James Kelly’s Nose Saved the New York City Subway, illustrated by Jenn Harney and published by Calkins Creek. Beth is giving away a copy to one lucky winner in the US.

All you have to do to get in the running is leave a comment. Reblog, tweet, or talk about it on Facebook with a link and you will get additional chances to win. Just let me know other things you do to share the good news, so I can put the right amount of tickets in my basket for you. Sharing on Facebook, Twitter or reblogging really helps spread the word for a new book. So, thanks for helping people know about Beth and Jenn’s new book.

If you have signed up to follow my blog and it’s delivered to you everyday, please let me know when you leave a comment and I will give you an extra ticket. Thanks!


James “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 “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.

Based on a true story, “SMELLY” KELLY AND HIS SUPER SENSES takes the reader into the labyrinth of the 1930s New York City subway where leaks and stinks abound as the growing metropolis sinks its roots into the world beneath the streets. Curricular connections include STEM and social studies topics, such as occupations, transportation, communities, and invention, as well as the interplay between humans and the environment, interdependence of people performing various jobs, and cause and effect relationships in a city over time.


Each journey from idea to book, teaches me craft skills and also affects me as a person. I tend to be drawn to historical events rather than entire lives. Like Ben Franklin and Noah Webster’s spelling revolution (An Inconvenient Alphabet) and Elizabeth Jennings’ fight for streetcar rights (Lizzie Demands a Seat!)—one humorous, and one powerfully serious. But “Smelly” Kelly and His Super Senses: How James Kelly’s Nose Saved the New York City Subway was different.

The short article I read on James Kelly tickled my funny-bone, curiosity, and teacher sense. But, there were only three sources: a magazine article, a newspaper article, and the chapter of a book. They all contained a few anecdotes from James Kelly’s career, and the chapter offered a few tidbits about his life. But that was it on him (until the historian at the New York Transit Museum found a newsletter article as we began proof passes). So my challenge was to see if I could use those anecdotes to create a meaningful story.

With a common name like James Kelly, ancestry records and the usual sources were fruitless. Consequently, I had no childhood or end of life info. Given a choice between strictly nonfiction and creating a meaningful story, I go for story—especially with a character like this.  I’d have to reach further, imagine a bit, and find a thread that I could pull through.

I researched the era, New York City, what’s beneath the street, and all aspects of the subway to fill in the gaps and put the story in context. The historian at the Transit Museum was immensely helpful. I found an expert who answered my questions – like how would Kelly have communicated and gotten assignments? With wide research, I was able to immerse myself in Kelly’s world – especially after I discovered a stench map, an industry map, and a sound map from the time!

Since Kelly was the subway’s first leak detective, I began with him as a subway sleuth. The 1930s-40s was the golden age of detective stories. But…it fell flat. Next, I focused on his “super senses.” What about a superhero story? Yes! That’s when superheroes emerged in our culture!

Building the arc was like trying to solve a logic puzzle. For some anecdotes, I had no dates. This forced me to be a detective myself. For instance: Kelly found a 10” trout in a water main and a 30” eel in a restroom sink. There had to be some point when something was done to keep wildlife out of the pipes. Digging into that question, I learned that a mesh was put over the intake pipes in reservoirs and rivers in 1942-43. Wa-la! That helped! I also looked at the senses he used in each incident. That led me to start with his nose and then have him learn to focus his ears, his growth after a complication in the rising action. I looked at the tools he used in each scene. He would have to create those beforehand. So, with each scene on a sticky note that included these key details, and considering the intensity of each scene, I built the arc of the story.

I looked at the superhero genre and analyzed character elements. Then I used those ideas, along with the emotional thread, to connect the scenes. I dropped in words, phrases, and lines from superhero movies. (can you find them?)

But…I still needed that essential heart or take-away that would make the story resonate in a special way. After brainstorming on paper (my brain works differently that way) about heroes, superpowers, and “what makes a hero a hero?”, I found it. With some tweaking and fine tuning, my idea came through from beginning to end. (no spoiler here)

Crucial to this process, is just the right editor who “gets” your story, who loves it, and knows how to smooth, connect, and focus it. That editor was Carolyn Yoder. And with the phenomenal illustrations of Jenn Harney, the story popped to life. Jenn’s sketches were full of energy and humor, and when I saw the palettes she used above and below ground—she knocked my socks off! Jenn was just the right illustrator for the story!

I did have to “kill one of my darlings,” the rat scene as the art developed. If you’re interested in that, see my blog post “He Had Me at ‘Rats’.”

About a week before the book released, I heard from some of James Kelly’s descendants after one had stumbled upon the forthcoming book online. What a treat to connect with the Kelly family! I learned some of them have the “Kelly nose,” that James had more inventions, and about his immigration. To communicate with James Kelly’s daughter and then hear that they loved the book was truly special.

From the start, I saw so much in this story: an odd talent; humorous, bizarre and dangerous smells; an ingenious and congenial everyday hero. I loved that it was the intersection of so many social studies and science topics playing out in the real world. This book’s journey taught me a lot. I hope readers will join me in celebrating James “Smelly” Kelly and think of him as they discover how their own talents contribute to the world!


Beth Anderson has always been fascinated with words and language. After earning a B.A. in linguistics and a M. Ed. in reading, she taught English as a Second Language for more than 20 years. Surrounded by young people from all over the world, with literature as her favorite tool, Beth experienced the power of books to teach, connect, and inspire.

From the start, with poems, plays, and puppet shows, Beth’s elementary teachers encouraged her to write. With stories, memoir pieces, and research papers, she continued to mold words into text. Her itch to write followed her through Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, Connecticut, Georgia, Texas, and into Colorado. In 2013, she began writing for children. Combining her love of writing with the joys of discovery and learning, she found her niche with narrative nonfiction and historical fiction picture books.

To Beth, writing is mining. It’s digging deep inside for special memories, emotions, and meaning. It’s burrowing into history for inspiring characters and moments that change the course of events. It’s delving into the how and why and what if and seeing how the past relates to where we are today. Then the search for just the right words begins—words that will create voice, bring characters to life, and reveal the heart of the story.

When she’s not writing, Beth might be weaving, gardening, exploring nature, or playing with her grandkids. Born and raised in Illinois, she now lives near the mountains in Colorado. Beth believes in laughter, learning, and…though we can’t change history, history can change us.
You can learn more about Beth Anderson’s writing journey, read posts from other kid lit people, and get book recommendations at her website:


Jenn Harney has been working in and around the children’s market for the last 25 years—first in coloring books and textbooks, then as a toy designer, and finally ending up doing what she always set out to do, illustrating for kids. Her work has been featured in Highlights for
Children as well as several picture book titles. Underwear! marked her debut as an author/illustrator, and she followed it up with another adorable read-aloud, Swim Swim Sink. Jenn lives in Clevelandish, Ohio, with her husband, her daughter, and a corgi named Steve. You can see some of Jenn Harney’s work at

Beth, thank you for sharing your book and it’s journey with us. I really enjoyed reading your journey with the book. Maybe someone else knew about Smiley Kelly, but I am not one of them. Jenn’s illustrations did a very nice job with the illustrations. Her fun illustrations will really keep kids wanting to read it again and again. Everyone else will want to read Smelly Kelly’s story.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. that is amazing, I’ve never heard about this – love the illustrations, too

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a great book! My grandson LOVES it! Congrats, Beth and Jenn!

    Kathy, I have a copy of this book. So if my name is pulled, please draw a new name. Let’s spread the wealth!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, thank you so much for sharing your grandson’s endorsement!!❤️

      Liked by 1 person

      • You are welcome! He’s all about how things work. And all those pipes and lines and things. I could practically see the wheels in his brain turning!


  3. So intrigued by this; can’t wait to read it!


  4. Sounds like a very kid-friendly book. Congrats, Beth! (I’m signed up for the emails.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kathy – Thank you so much for sharing James “Smelly” Kelly’s story…and…on National Hero Day!


  6. I would love to win this book! My son is really into smells and we’ve been meaning to buy this one for him!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This story doesn’t stink! It smells more like sweet success.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Super post, Kathy and Beth! I love that you detail your process of finding the heart or thread of the story, dear Beth…it was a great manuscript…and now it’s a fabulous book with brilliant illustrations by Jenn Harney. And you are right…Carolyn Yoder is a masterful editor!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great post. I too hadn’t heard of Smelly Kelly until I read the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I LOVE this! What a great way to hook hook young readers. I’m impressed by the amount of research that went into uncovering this story to celebrate an unusual unsung hero.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Really enjoyed this blog post — I hadn’t thought about the challenges of researching someone with such a common name! I loved the sticky note technique to work out the timing of the events.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is fascinating! The researching challenges sound daunting. So glad you persisted and brought Kelly’s story to the world! (Kathy, I subscribe to your blog.)

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This book sounds fantastic! Thanks for sharing your process with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Fantastic post!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Love this book! And I think the illustrator’s choice to use that distinctive color of yellow-green for the scent was inspired! Whenever I smell something bad, now, this image is conjured in my head, LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re too funny! So does that yellow green cloud form a shape? 🤣

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I loved reading about the brainstorming Beth used for creating this delightful book about a real person with an unusual job. I learned so much about how to include information when not much is known about the person! Jenn’s illustrations are eye-catching and fun! Each appeals to both children and adults. I can’t wait to read this picture book. Congratulations Beth Anderson and Jenn Harney!

    I subscribe to your blog, Kathy, and look forward to reading it daily. I am posting a link to this post on facebook.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your comments, Pamela! I’ve learned when you can’t go deep, you have to go wide to surround what little you have and be able to fill out a scene.


  17. Enjoyed hearing about the steps Beth had to take to write this book. Anxious to get my hands on a copy to share with my students.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. What a unique & wonderful story!! Great work, Beth & Jenn!! Congrats!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. This book looks amazing! Congrats! (And I just RTed the contest!)

    Liked by 1 person

  20. What an interesting story! Congratulations Beth and Jenn. Looking forward to reading this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Fascinating topic and research story! The underground illustrations are stunning.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Would love to win a fabulous copy of Smelly Kelly. Very intriguing story and absolutely beautiful illustrations.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: