Janna and the Kings

By Publishers Weekly

Smith’s debut children’s book tenderly portrays a girl’s loving relationship with her grandfather. Janna spends every Saturday with Granddaddy, her ‘best friend in the world.’ He calls her ‘Princess Sugarlump’ and invites her to accompany him each week to the barbershop, where a convival group of older men congregate. To Janna, these friendly fellows are ‘kings, just like Granddaddy’ and make her feel like a ‘real princess.’ After Granddaddy dies suddenly, Saturdays — and Janna’s life — become painfully empty. Initially, she passes by the barbershop (‘It didn’t feel right to go in without Granddaddy”) but one Saturday Janna returns, the kings welcome her warmly and she feels her grandfather’s presence. Smith affectingly captures the strong bond between girl and grandfather, and the rituals that unite them. Boyd’s (Babu’s Song) richly toned watercolors similarly convey the affection shared by the two… The narrative may lean occasionaly toward precious (‘There was just the music of a no-school morning and the smell of bacon and eggs and tummy-tickling from two rooms away”), but the message here will strike a resonant chord with children who have experienced a similar loss.