Smell No Evil
There’s gold in them thar book sales!
So I’m at the Evanston Public Library in their booksale room and lo and behold this beauty jumps out at me.
Putting aside the fact that this is without a doubt the first and only Sesame Street book that repeats the word “evil” in its title, it took me several viewings before I realized that there were three twiddlebugs at the top reenacting the famous three wise monkeys stance.
Now the book is a scratch-and-sniff title circa 1976 (and this is the 4th printing so it must have been popular). One person on Twitter mentioned the fact that the covers says that this is “A Golden Fragrance Book”. Were there others? You BET there were! On the back I found a listing of other titles. They were:
- The Sweet Smell of Christmas
- The Winnie-the-Pooh Scratch and Sniff Book
- Bambi’s Fragrant Forest [surely not a good idea]
- A Nose for Trouble
- Detective Arthur on the Scent
- Little Bunny Follows His Nose
- Max the Nosey Bear
I remember all too well how popular scratch-and-sniff books were when I was a kid. I loved them. I had one (the name long since forgotten so it might well be one of the books mentioned here) where you could scratch a chocolate ice cream cone and smell it.
So what is the history of the scratch-and-sniff book? It occurred to me that there might well be scratch-and-sniff historians out there that have written long papers on this very subject, so I set off to find out. I did find a Bookriot link called Scratch and Sniff Books for Grownups and an Economist piece on how scratch-and-sniff really works but the actual history appeared in the conflicting reports from Fiction Circus and Wikipedia. Long story short, it was a novelty that served its time.
Might we see a resurgence in scratch-and-sniff in the future? After all, tactile objects are all the rage in this, the digital era. The internet cannot provide smells yet. But scent is a fickle commodity. Remember Smell-o-Vision or Moss Man, the pungent He-Man character that smelled like a particularly potent version of that Christmas tree that smoking drivers would hang off their rear view mirrors? Smelling weird things is okay for a lark but it’s not the kind of thing you build a business on.
Still, I suspect the children’s book world has another scratch-and-sniff era coming. And who knows? Perhaps one day a Caldecott winner will be of the scratch-and-sniff variety. And if you believe that I’ve got the loveliest little bridge over here that I’d like to sell you . . .
Filed under: Uncategorized
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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