Title: The Sweet Smell of Christmas
Author: Patricia Scarry
Illustrator: J.P. Miller
Age Group: 2-5
Synopsis: Little Bear smells his way through Christmas preparation in a story that’s sure to connect with young readers.
Christmas always smells like caramel to me. Every year my mom makes her own salted caramels for Christmas. The afternoon is filled with butter, sugar, cream, stirring, wrapping, snacking. To this day, that butter, sugar, cream combo reminds me of Christmas. There’s a myriad of other secondary smells: pine, cinnamon, sugar cookies but caramels always reign supreme. I make them myself now but I’m always surprised what a strong sense smell really is. The Sweet Smell of Christmas taps into that and presents Christmas in a way that is so relateable for young kids.
The beauty of this book is Little Bear’s constant eagerness and excitement. It pulls the reader through what is essentially a weak plot without bringing any awareness to that fact. The other strong piece of the story is that children getting ready for Christmas can easily relate to Little Bear as he chooses and decorates the tree, helps his mother in the kitchen, listens to Christmas carols, and finds his stocking on Christmas morning. Bug continually shouts: “I did that too!”
But what really sets this book apart and what’s made it a reread through the years (I had this when I was a kid too. Copyright 1970!) is the scratch and sniff stickers that pop up throughout the book. This interactive pieces allows kids to get extra excited about the story and engage in a new way. The stickers are perfectly spaced and pop up a total of six times. Because of these stickers I shall forever associate oranges with Christmas even though we never had them in our stockings growing up. The rest of the illustrations have an authentic vintage vibe to them (again 1970 copyright) that hearkens back to Germany. Papa Bear wears a pretty distinctive German hat and the half-timbered homes from the pictures could be taken out of our town. It’s funny how new things pop out of the pages as your life changes and evolves.
This book will always be near and dear to my heart to to equal parts nostalgia and sweetness. As Bug grows, it’s so magical to watch him develop the same joy and wonder associated with books but also with the holidays that mean the most to us. It’s not just the day but the season, the memories, feelings we associate with them. And in that regard Christmas will always be near and dear to our hearts.
- Careful how much you scratch those stickers. You’ll want them to last through the years!