Amber C. Jones' Kickstarter-funded children's book, New York, Phew York: A Scratch-n-Sniff Adventure, came out last week and this is the part of the post where the obligatory smell-related pun (Everyone is turning their noses up! It's a stinker! It's a smell-ebration!) goes. Written in rhyming couplets, NYPY tells the story of a little boy on his first vacation to New York City. He and his family are helped by a friendly concierge (Jones' day job) as they travel around lower Manhattan taking in the sights and smells. And since city smells seem to be on everyone's mind this week, we at Curbed have obtained a copy and, after scrapping our original idea of finding each of the scented items from the book (a churro, a bag of garbage, a horse, etc) and doing a side-by-side comparison, we've decided to simply review the smells based on memory.
There are, by our count, 23 different smells in the 41-page book. In addition to writing a cute story, Jones has chosen a pretty solid array of distinct New York City smells—kebab carts, asphalt, a gross man on the subway, and others. Unfortunately, the stock smells provided by the print house have some trouble keeping up with her. While some are accurate, others are fairly confounding, and there also seem to be a number of repeats. Here's the breakdown.
Things that smelled like pine trees:
Car freshener, Central Park, hot dog, store awning
Things that smelled like burning rubber:
Guy on the subway, plate of Italian food, garbage bags, pastrami sandwich, kebab cart
The churros were pretty delicious-smelling, like a cinnamon-heavy potpourri.
Runner up: On one of the last pages there's an Indian lady who smells like curry.
Surprisingly, out of the all the burning rubber-scented things, the kebab cart and the Italian food were the two that induced involuntary coughs (possibly because we were less prepared for them.)
Runner up: The Chinatown street market sort of brings to mind an herbal bus exhaust.
Most Accurate Smell:
The roses that the little boy gives to the concierge at the end (what a great concierge!) are very accurate, although it's not too surprising that the scratch-n-sniff database has a solid rose-smell on file. As far as non-standard smells, the wet asphalt that some construction workers are pouring is surprisingly on point.
Least Accurate Smell:
When the family takes a carriage ride, the horse smells like deodorant. It's not unpleasant, but we don't know any horses who are that hygienic.
Overall, Jones does a nice job (and we're definitely looking forward to the rumored "adult" sequel about a night out on the town.) The work of illustrator Tim Probert is also worth mentioning—it's a nice added touch that the father gets an increasingly worried look on his face as he checks his wallet throughout the trip. The smells aren't terribly true to life, but so what? If you want to smell garbage just go for a walk around the block. Now, if you'll excuse us, we're going to go wash our fingernails.