THE SMELL OF OLD LADY PERFUME (Cinco Puntos, 2008): Chela Gonzalez is a nerd and a soccer player who can barely contain her excitement about starting the sixth grade. But nothing happens as she imagines when her father is rushed to the hospital and her best friend ditches her. NOW AVAILABLE IN SPANISH TOO.
SOLP is winner of the 2009 Paterson Prize for Books for Young People, the2008 Texas Institute of Letters Best Young Adult Book Award and 2009 Americas Award Commendation. It also appears on several reading lists, including Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best, Southwest Books of the Year, ALAN’s Picks, andTeaching Tolerance.
From School Library Journal
“This is a sweet coming-of-age story, telling of the cruelties of children toward one another and dealing with the loss of a parent. The story should appeal to readers dealing with their own tween years.”—Diana Pierce
“…readers will also find the book’s loving portrayal of Chela’s family, its nicely realized setting, and its artful exploration of the problems of assimilation, to be both engaging and heartfelt.” —Michael Cart
“Martinez’s prose, always animated and descriptive, is frequently quite beautiful. She is an author to watch.”–Cathy Jacobus, Southwest Books of the Year
“The original title gives a glimpse of the poetic lines peppered throughout this poignant debut.”–Marcela Landres, Latinidad
“The Smell of Old Lady Perfume is a necessary book for anyone who needs to know that the universe isn’t ‘so large and empty.’”–Rigoberto Gonzalez, El Paso Times
Selected press clippings
In your own words, what is The Smell of Old Lady Perfume about? It’s a story about love and loss. Chela, an eleven year old growing up in a bordertown, worries about typical things like popularity and grades. Then her father gets sick, and that changes her life.
Can you explain the title? In the story, the smell of old lady perfume is the smell of bad things. When something bad happens, Chela’s relatives show up, followed by a cloud of perfume! Something pretty bad does happen.
Is this your real life story? No. It’s true that my father passed away when I was eleven, and I wanted to engage in a conversation about how loss changes a young person’s life and perspective.
Are the pictures in your book pictures of your real life? No. The book designer did a really great job though.
Tell us about writing and getting published. I’ll tell you what my parents always told me. Even when things seem tough, if you work hard and don’t give up, anything is possible.
Do you visit schools? Yes!I’ve had the opportunity to talk at several schools ranging from elementary kids to college students. It’s one the best parts of being a writer. Please use my contact page for further inquiries.
How do I contact you? Click on the Contact link on the header bar.
In 2014, my good friend Molly McClennen and I won a Community Engagement Grant from the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Education for the developement of a curriculum featuring the The Smell of Old Lady Perfume.
Molly, a College of Education Ph.D. candidate, developed a wonderful reader’s guide, including 5 lessons. These covered the following topics:
• An introduction to the author and the book
• An introduction to El Paso, the setting of the book
• An introduction to Chela, the main character of the book
• Using the book as a mentor text to help the students write their own stories
• Developing questions and practicing discussion participation in preparation for meeting the author
These lessons, in particular Lesson Five, were written with the premise that students might meet the author. But, even if readers are not meeting the author, we hope this guide will still help them write their own stories. Please feel free to omit Lesson Five or to amend it as you see fit.
You can safely download the drafts of our free teaching resources from TeachingBooks.net: