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Scratch-and-sniff book 'Animal Gas' is odorous fun for all

Thursday, August 1, 2013 - 7:30 am

There are children's picture books on the market about many topics, but not so many about animal gas, and even fewer are scratch and sniff.

Enter “Animal Gas” by Bryan Ballinger. It is a tale – or should we say tail? – of lying animals that love to tell how sweet their gaseous byproducts smell, while their fellow critters tip the reader off to how foul their claims really are. Scratch-and-sniff panels give the reader a firsthand dose of just what odor is being discussed. Anything from sweet flowers to smelly old socks can be sniffed.

Ballinger, 45, an associate professor of Digital Arts at Huntington University, is no stranger to children's books. He is a former employee and illustrator for VeggieTales and his artwork has been published in numerous children's books. He joined the staff at Huntington University eight years ago when it started its Digital Arts program.

A former roommate, Ballinger said, inspired the project and subject matter. The book is 24 pages, and when completed will be available as a hardbound book or as an iBook. Although the iBook doesn't have the scratch-and-sniff component it has the interactive touch component: touch the image of the animal and it will, well, toot. The verses all rhyme and the drawings are whimsical and fun. Turn the pages and the animal characters seem to have a life of their own.

“My gas smells like home, and treats that you bake.

They're yummy and fresh, like muffins and cake,” said a dog dressed as a baker.

A cow walking down the street, followed by a cloud of gas filled with daisies and tulips proclaims, “I toot in the night, as well as the day. It smells like perfume, of flowers in May."

Ballinger is publishing the book himself and is in the process of raising the money to make it happen. He has a Kickstarter account set up to help him with his goal. Kickstarter.com is a website created to help creative people get funding for entrepreneurial projects. He has seven days left in his Kickstarter fundraiser and he has close to $10,000; half the cost of the project.

“The book costs about twice as much to publish as a normal picture book because of the scratch-and-sniff component,” Ballinger said.

Ballinger is offering all sorts of premiums for people who pledge, including a free pet portrait session with the illustrator for a donation of $500. Of course you can get in on the giving at the much lower level of $5.

Every day Ballinger posts a new gaseous animal designed by him or one of his artist friends on the site and he also has created short animated videos that are fun to watch. He has been tweeting, Facebooking, using Tumbler, and other social media, to get the word out about his project.

Ballinger took a prototype of the book to Irwin Elementary School last spring and did a reading for the whole school. He said he got a lot of laughs, and not just from the students. The book is for children, but appeals to readers of all ages, Ballinger said.

After sniffing out a printer in Toledo, Ohio, who can print both the book and the scratch-and-sniff components, Ballinger has the book ready for press.

If he is able to secure the funding for his project he plans to have the book ready for release on Amazon in November, in plenty of time for Christmas. After all, who wouldn't want a little “Animal Gas” at their family holiday gathering?

Those interested in learning more about the project can go to animalgas.com, which has a link to Kickstarter, or they can go directly to Kickstarter.com and look up "Animal Gas" in the site search.