Janna and the Kings

Overview

Janna looks forward to every Saturday and the special ritual she and her best friend -- her grandfather -- share that takes them through town to the barber shop, where he appears to her young eyes as a “king” meeting the other kings, his pals Terrell, Amos, and Mr. Odell. When he dies, many Saturdays pass before she has the courage to return to the barber shop. Then one day she finds herself standing in the doorway. Suddenly the other “kings” notice her. This tender, lovingly illustrated tale is based on the ...
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Overview

Janna looks forward to every Saturday and the special ritual she and her best friend -- her grandfather -- share that takes them through town to the barber shop, where he appears to her young eyes as a “king” meeting the other kings, his pals Terrell, Amos, and Mr. Odell. When he dies, many Saturdays pass before she has the courage to return to the barber shop. Then one day she finds herself standing in the doorway. Suddenly the other “kings” notice her. This tender, lovingly illustrated tale is based on the author’s own childhood memories of Saturdays spent in the barber shop with her father.

Janna loves the Saturday visits that she and her grandfather make to the local barbershop where she becomes a princess, but after he dies, Janna feels as though her world has changed.

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Editorial Reviews

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 convivial 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, although the resolution of the art can be uneven, with images ranging from clearly defined to blurry. The narrative may lean occasionally toward precious ("There was just the music of a no-school morning and the smell of bacon and eggs tummy-tickling from two rooms away"), but the message here will strike a resonant chord with children who have experienced a similar loss. Ages 6-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Janna savors every Saturday spent with the "kings," her beloved Granddaddy and his friends at Terrell's barbershop, perched in their big leather barber chair "thrones," where they laugh and tease and brag and "always, always asked Janna what she thought." To the "kings," Janna is Princess Sugarlump, "and everything a princess had to say was important." But then one night Janna's Mama tells her that "Granddaddy's heart had gone to sleep"; "the king had left his princess without saying goodbye." Janna's grief and loss are vividly and achingly portrayed both in Smith's tender text and in Boyd's expressive watercolors—most poignantly of Janna standing alone outside the door of the barbershop, wishing Saturday could "sing its old song," as the "kings," wiser than she realizes, watch her from the window, waiting for her to be ready to enter their kingdom once again. Smith's first picture book, a winner of Lee & Low's New Voices Award, is a moving celebration of African-American community and of the intergenerational bonds between a grandfather and a granddaughter that can survive even death. Young readers should cherish the company of these kindly "kings" every bit as much as Janna does. 2003, Lee & Low, Ages 4 to 8.
— Claudia Mills
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-An African-American girl looks forward to Saturdays, which she spends with her grandfather. When they are together, Janna becomes Princess Sugarlump and he becomes a king. They enjoy walks down Madison Street, trips to the corner store, and Janna's favorite place, Terrell's barbershop. The other kings await her entrance and greet her with sweet words such as "pretty" and "there's our baby," making her feel extra special. When Granddaddy dies, Janna is devastated. In an effort to enter the world again, she walks down Madison Street and finally decides to stop in the barbershop. The kind voices once again beckon her inside, and Janna realizes that her granddaddy is still present among the other kings. Filled with descriptive language, this book is a good choice to use in helping children to deal with death. The vibrant watercolor paintings successfully set the tone of this intergenerational story.-Tracy Bell, Durham Public Schools, NC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Janna's favorite day is Saturday when her grandfather picks her up and takes her for a walk down Madison Street. She feels like a princess, and her grandfather is the king as firefighters, neighbors, and best friends greet them by name. She especially enjoys their weekly trips to Terrell's Barber Shop, where her grandfather's friends dote on her. When her grandfather dies, Saturdays don't feel like real Saturdays. Life goes on around her, but Janna no longer feels like a princess until she makes that Saturday walk down Madison and dares to enter Terrell's by herself. Despite her fears, the old men greet her like always, and she's sure her grandfather is still with her. Boyd's watercolor illustrations are sunny and expressive and help to bring this passable story of intergenerational friendship and loss to life. Though Smith is a journalist and poet, the language does not jump off the page. Despite the story's sweetness, it's not special enough to be an essential purchase. (Picture book. 5-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781584300885
  • Publisher: Lee & Low Books, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/10/2003
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 794,321
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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