Friday, November 13, 2020

A Guy With a Real Superpower!

"Smelly" Kelly and His Super Senses: How James Kelly's Nose Saved the New York City Subway 
by Beth Anderson; illus. by Jenn Harney 
40 pages; ages 7-10
Calkins Creek, 2020    

theme: biography, engineering, superpowers

 James Kelly smelled everything.

Even circus elephants a mile away. But what good was the superpower of super-smelling? And how would it lead to a decent job? When he went to New York City he discovered a need for his nose: sniffing out leaks in the subway system. Leaking water could cause a cave in. Leaking gas could cause an explosion. Soon, James had a new name: Smelly Kelly.

He did more than just sniff for stinks. He studied up on chemistry, finding a powder that could help him identify leaky pipes. He invented gadgets to help him listen through walls for the sounds of drip, drip, dripping.

What I like about this book: I’d never heard of Smelly Kelly, so it was fun to read about someone who used his superpowers in a different way. I like the fun – and funny – way Beth Anderson tells his story. And I love the loads of back matter!

Beyond the Books:
Do you have a superpower? What is it? And how can you use it for the good of your family and neighbors?

Smelly Kelly makes a stethoscope so he can listen to leaks in walls. Here’s how you can make your own stethoscope.

You can read about James Kelly and the underground world he inhabited here.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copy provided by the publisher.


  1. Love this book! Back when my kids were small we could purchase a simple stethoscope at the local pharmacy and had a lot of fun with it - great suggestion!

  2. This is such a fun book with so many layers. Love your activities.

  3. Have heard about this book and can't wait to read it. Won it on a website. Your review makes me even more eager to read it! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Love the sound of this one and your suggestion to make a stethoscope.

  5. Beth writes such fascinating books! Great post Sue!