Elise Gravel, Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere, HarperCollins Australia, 1 April 2017, 176pp., $22.99 (hbk), ISBN: 9780062351265
Just looking at the cover of this book made me laugh out loud. Olga and the Smelly Thing From Nowhere has a funny, vibrant cover with illustrations that will brighten up your day even before you open it up. And when you do open it up, the fun continues!
Elise Gravel has written a story that reminded me of how fun it was to be fearless, to explore and to ask and think the silliest things without being told it was wrong. In a nutshell, that is Olga’s adventure in this book. She is a scientist, who loves animals and it shows in this, her observation notebook. It’s an ingenious way to draw readers into Olga’s joy at science, and every page comes with the oddest (and truest) of facts, as well as marvellous, fun illustrations. In addition, we have a female character enjoying science, in fact revelling in it. Olga is independent and doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty by examining animal poop for her notebook. How many children these days will do that without being told it’s the wrong thing to do, but here’s Olga showing them that if they have a reason for it, by all means do it.
Olga’s adventures in observing animals become even more exciting when she discovers an olgamus ridiculus, which is so cute you’ll have to see it to believe it. From there, she forges ahead trying to find out more about it, about what it eats and where it sleeps. The illustrations that accompany this humorous tale are going to crack you up – I’ve said that so many times already, but that’s how good they are.
From there, she meets several other characters who encourage her in her experiments to find out more about what Meh (that’s its name) likes. Each character is encouraging and helps her along in her observations and her love for Meh.
Although she may have started the book alone in her world of animal observations, Olga soon meets a new friend, Chuck, and makes friends out of frenemies when she discovers them taking care of Meh. What’s better? Those frenemies show themselves to be more than just her (and our) first impressions of them.
This book is a reminder to young readers that science is for anyone, that friends can come in all shapes and sizes and best of all, it’s a reminder that asking the silly questions can actually be the best thing in the world to do.
Reviewed by Verushka Byrow