What Is That Smell?
by Jean Boyd

"Now class, we mustn't laugh at the expense of another person."

Owen is an elementary school student with an embarrassing problem. He has a heightened gastrointestinal sensitivity to beans. Although his mother has already warned him to stay away from beans, this is a lesson that Owen has to learn the hard way. While he is at a party with his classmates, Owen indulges in many delicious foods, including gooey chocolate cake, sandwiches, and lots of bean dip. A group of girls, known as the chick clique, is also at the party. These girls are finicky eaters, and they avoid the bean dip, but Owen couldn't stay away from it.

The next day at school, Owen sits in his class with all of the other kids from the party. He is mortified to realize that he cannot seem to stop releasing gas. Owen's teacher and classmates figure out that Owen is responsible for the pervasive stink in the room, and all of them laugh at his predicament. The flatulence problem becomes so severe that the teacher asks Owen to leave the room until his stomach feels better. At the end of the story, Owen asks his friends to never let him eat beans again.

The story is clearly meant to convey the harm that comes from poking fun at other people. Unfortunately, Owen's teacher and the principal of the school join in on making fun of Owen. The teacher does try to reprimand the class for laughing at Owen, but fails to contain her own mirth. As a cautionary tale, this picture book sends mixed messages to its young audience, but it may serve as an icebreaker for parents who would like to discuss bullying with their young children.

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