Review by Jane Hall, in Carousel Guide to Children’s Books 59 (March 2015), online at carouselguide.co.uk/pdf/59-FirstSteps.pdf:
Stinky Skunk Mel tells the charming tale of how an outcast becomes a hero. Mel is a very smelly skunk, for no matter how hard he tries, he cannot control his stinky smell. The other forest animals soon tire of him and so Mel goes to live alone in the dump. However, when disaster strikes, Mel puts his stinky spray to good use, becoming a hero. Award-winning children’s author Kari-Lynn Winters has created an endearing hero and Mel’s story is told in simple rhyming couplets that are ideal for those beginning to read. Also, clever use of colour provides prompts for new readers; red, blue and green are used to reflect fire, water and smelly words respectively. The text is on plain white pages, making it easier for children to focus on the words. The traditional cartoon illustrations are perfect for this gentle tale of how an outsider becomes accepted. Primarily using blacks and greys, Paola Opal effectively uses shades of green to emphasise poor Mel’s smell. This is a beautiful book with a subtle message of acceptance.
Review: **** 4/4, by Claire Perrin, in CM Magazine 21:2 (September 12, 2014), online at umanitoba.ca/outreach/cm/vol21/no2/stinkyskunkmel.html:
Being friends with a skunk has its down side. Mel’s friends can’t get past his stinky smell, and he feels terrible about it. Mel decides to leave the forest and his friends and banish himself to a junkyard outside of town.
While living in the dump, Mel smells fire nearby and watches as firefighters extinguish the blaze. They put out the fire, all but the last spark, when they run out of water. Fortunately, Mel is able to help out. He extinguishes the flames with his special spray and becomes a hero. His forest friends appreciate his efforts and welcome Mel back to the forest.
Kari-Lynn Winters has found a very entertaining way to write about acceptance, individuality and self-knowledge. Mel comes to terms with stinkiness and is not only accepted but celebrated as a hero. His friends overlook Mel’s smell once they realize that Mel has a special ability that is useful in the forest.
Winters writes using rhyming verses with four lines per page. The rhymes are never awkward, and the story rolls smoothly from beginning to end with good rhythm. The small text to picture ratio makes the book easy to read and gives readers a chance to focus on the hilarious illustrations. The use of LARGE GREEN text to convey certain stinky words adds to the humour of the story.
Paola Opal’s illustrations are an excellent fit for Winters’ story. She uses a monochromatic colour scheme with lots of black and grey, accented with green for obvious reasons. The characters are drawn in cartoon style with a plain background, making it easy to focus on the characters’ facial expressions and actions. It is rare to find illustrations that convey characters’ feelings so clearly and comically.
Stinky Skunk Mel appeals on many levels. Children will enjoy the plot, especially when the firefighters arrive and run out of water. Adults will see an opportunity to discuss friendship, feeling left out, and finally acceptance. Highly Recommended.