Once in, Never out! If you smell caramel in the labyrinth below the Fog Mound, you’re doomed!

S.S. and Anthony C. sniff a mystery odor and try to discern whether it's the aroma that mammals would encounter in one of the fog pits in the deadly labyrinth beneath the Fog Mound or the one that reptiles would notice.

Last Sunday, in one of the classes in which we’ve been reading Susan Schade and Jon Buller’s Travels of Thelonious, we provided each student with two sealed cups containing absorbent paper chads to which we had applied one of two fragrant liquids: peppermint essence or caramel sauce. In the image above, you can see Li S.S. and Anthony C. taking deep sniffs from caramel sauce samples.

At one pivotal point in the story, the protagonists’ very survival hinges on avoiding areas in which the air is saturated with the aroma of caramel. The Fog Mound trilogy takes its name from the Fog Mound, a plateau-crowning citadel of talking animals that exists as an oasis of civilization on a seemingly Homo-sapiens-free, post-apocalyptic Earth. The lands surrounding the Fog Mound are also inhabited by talking animals but they have regressed and appear to be hunter-gatherers, like the inhabitants of the Untamed Forest, or scavengers subsisting on humanity’s leftovers, like the tinned-food-consuming residents of the City of Ruins. Life is much better atop the Fog Mound and so it presents a tempting target for any would-be conquerors or looters who might learn of its existence.

Scrabbling up the vertical cliffs surrounding the settlement is, for all practical purposes, impossible. The only means of entry for the non-winged is a labyrinth, accessible from ground level via a secret door in the cliff face. Without a guide or a map, however, those who enter the labyrinth uninvited are unlikely to survive for very long.

The passage in which Olive Bear learns, to her shock, that she and the other mammals in her group have been rescued from the Fog Mound's deadly vapors by Brown the lizard.

In the passage shown in this snapshot, the book’s intrepid party of protagonists have just been rescued from the fog permeating certain passages within the labyrinth by a lizard named Brown, the only animal in the group unaffected by the hallucinogenic, disorienting vapors. To Brown, the fog had smelled like peppermint whereas to Olive Bear and her fellow mammals, it had smelled like caramels:

Olive opened her eyes. “What’s that lovely smell?” she asked. “Caramels?” “Peppermint,” said Brown. “What?” Olive said. “Peppermint,” Brown repeated. “The fog smells like peppermint.”

Below are Chloe C.’s correct answers to the two fill-in-the-blank questions posed to her and her classmates after they’d had a chance to smell odor ‘X’ (peppermint essence) and odor ‘O’ (caramel sauce):

Chloe C.'s correct answers to the two fill-in-the-blank questions posed to her and her classmates after they'd had a chance to smell odor 'X' (peppermint essence) and odor 'O' (caramel sauce).

Since it would’ve been a shame to let the rest of our brand new squeeze bottle of caramel sauce go to waste, we followed this activity with a quick snack break. Ice cream topped with caramel sauce for everyone!

Chloe C.'s about to dig into her caramel-sauce-topped ice cream.