Janice Lee Smith (1949-) Biography
Personal, Addresses, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Sidelights
Born 1949, in Fowler, KA; Education: Rutgers University, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1977. Politics: Republican. Religion: Protestant.
Agent—Dorothy Markinko, McIntosh & Otis, Inc., 310 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10017.
Writer, 1978—; Lee-Smith Enterprises (land developers), Hamilton County, IN, partner, 1988—. Member of Mademoiselle marketing board, 1977-87.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
Bread Loaf Writer's Conference scholarship, 1981, and fellowship, 1982; named among the Outstanding Young Women of America, 1981; Indiana Arts Commission/National Endowment for the Arts master arts fellowship grant, 1984, for The Show-and-Tell War, and for The Kid Next Door and Other Headaches: Stories about Adam Joshua; The Kid Next Door and Other Headaches was selected an International Reading Association Children's Choice, 1985; Addi Award, 1987, for advertising booklet.
The Monster in the Third Dresser Drawer, and Other Stories about Adam Joshua, illustrated by Dick Gackenbach, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1981.
The Kid Next Door and Other Headaches: Stories about Adam Joshua, illustrated by Dick Gackenbach, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1984, published as The Kid Next Door and Other Headaches: More Stories about Adam Joshua, 1986.
The Show-and-Tell War, and Other Stories about Adam Joshua, illustrated by Dick Gackenbach, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1988.
Pet Day: Yet More Stories about Adam Joshua, illustrated by Dick Gackenbach, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1989.
It's Not Easy Being George: Stories about Adam Joshua >(and His Dog), illustrated by Dick Gackenbach, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1989.
The Turkeys' Side of It: Adam Joshua's Thanksgiving, illustrated by Dick Gackenbach, Harper & Row (New York, NY), 1990.
There's a Ghost in the Coatroom: Adam Joshua's Christmas, illustrated by Dick Gackenbach, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991.
Nelson in Love: An Adam Joshua Valentine's Day Story, illustrated by Dick Gackenbach, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.
Serious Science: An Adam Joshua Story, illustrated by Dick Gackenbach, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
The Baby Blues: An Adam Joshua Story, illustrated by Dick Gackenbach, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
Wizard and Wart, illustrated by Paul Meisel, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
Wizard and Wart at Sea, illustrated by Paul Meisel, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.
Wizard and Wart in Trouble, illustrated by Paul Meisel, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
Jess and the Stinky Cowboys, illustrated by Lisa Thiesing, Dial Books for Young Readers (New York, NY), 2004.
Janice Lee Smith is the author of a number of story books for beginning readers that feature young boys and their dogs, among them the "Adam Joshua" books and the "Wizard and Wart" series. Praising the final "Adam Joshua" book, The Baby Blues, in Horn Book, Ellen Fader commended Smith for her ability to "skillfully shift … from lighthearted comedy to situations that will be emotionally involving for primary-grade children." Due to their humor and plots that involve situations most children can identify with, Smith's books have been especially valuable in attracting even reluctant readers. With a title sure to appeal to young boys in particular, Smith's Jess and the Stinky Cowboys finds the sheriff's daughter forced to run some ne'er-do-wells out of town during her father's absence; the story was praised by Booklist contributor Jennifer Mattson for its "colorful prose" and a plot that "makes perfect, silly sense," while a Kirkus Reviews contributor predicted that "young readers will be seeking sequels" to Smith's humorous tale.
"My husband, Jim, and I were raised in Mineola, a tiny town of 600 that sits across the Chisolm Trail and lies between Dodge City and No Man's Land," Smith once told Marie T. Baker in Right Here magazine. "Our grandparents traveled there as children in covered wagons. Our great-grandparents homesteaded it. It was a very isolated part of the country in which to spend a childhood, but it was filled with storytellers. I would sit for hours listening to those stories of the early days of Kansas, and then I'd line up dolls, dogs, cats, and my baby brother as a captive audience and practice telling stories myself. It was an ideal start for a creative writer."
Shortly after Smith graduated from college, an editor at Harper & Row contacted her regarding a career in writing for children. The editor had read an article Smith had published in Mademoiselle during Smith's 1977 guest editorship. Smith jumped at the opportunity, and in 1981 saw publication of her first book, The Monster in the Third Dresser Drawer, and Other Stories about Adam Joshua, which features stories about a young boy and his dog, George. As with this book, most of Smith's story ideas have come from watching friends and family. As she commented in the Eighth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators, she benefits from having a "nicely eccentric" family. "I loved having a way to chronicle my children's lives as they grew, and they gleefully endured having a mother who laughed and took notes about their escapades rather than yelling."
The "Adam Joshua" series has expanded into nine books, all of which have roots in Smith's own experiences. Called "engaging" and a "highly readable yarn with instant child appeal" by Booklist contributor Deborah Abbott, The Baby Blues: An Adam Joshua Story finds the young protagonist undergoing a lesson on the facts of life and the demands of parenthood when his teacher becomes pregnant and decides to let her students share in her anticipation by placing an unhatched egg into each student's care. Another book in the series, The Kid Next Door and Other Headaches, which received several commendations, is based on memories of a friend from the author's childhood, a boy who cut off her hair when she was four years old. She responded by making him eat a box of dog biscuits. As Smith recalled to Baker, "generally, we managed to get into a great deal of trouble. He was … such delightful fun, that I grew up to marry him."
In addition to the "Adam Joshua" books, Smith has penned a trio of books about a young wizard named Wizard whose constant companion is his dog Wart. In Wizard and Wart at Sea Wizard is prompted to improve a trip to the seaside by casting spells that encourage a large number of whales to swim within sight of shore and goats to ramble along the beach. The duo create similar craziness in Wizard and Wart in Trouble, as Wizard continues to turn things topsy-turvy with misguided spells. Booklist reviewer Hazel Rochman praised Wizard and Wart in Trouble for its "silly slapstick situations and comic watercolor pictures" by Paul Meisel, while Ilene Cooper cited Wizard and Wart at Sea in the same publication for containing "moments of fun" as well as "sprightly cartoon-style illustrations" that would appeal to novice readers.
Smith makes her home with her family in a Victorian-style farmhouse on thirty acres. "We have a resident herd of deer, a loose brick in the fireplace for secret messages, and a small, but mysterious secret passage. My writing loft looks out over the family's breakfast room and fireplace—and I had them put the largest picture window possible by my desk. It looks out toward a woods with hundred-year-old beech trees, wild flowers and wildlife. It's a lovely place for dreaming up books!"
Biographical and Critical Sources
Eighth Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators, H. W. Wilson (New York, NY), 1999.
Booklist, February 15, 1992, Deborah Abbott, review of Nelson in Love: An Adam Joshua Valentine's Day Story, p. 1105; June 1, 1993, Ellen Mandel, review of Serious Science, p. 1836; June 1, 1994, Deborah Abbott, review of The Baby Blues: An Adam Joshua Story, p. 1823; July, 1995, Ilene Cooper, review of Wizard and Wart at Sea, p. 1885; May 1, 1998, Hazel Rochman, review of Wizard and Wart in Trouble, p. 1526; February 15, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of Jess and the Stinky Cowboys, p. 1064.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, March, 2004, Deborah Stevenson, review of Jess and the Stinky Cowboys, p. 295.
Horn Book, March-April, 1992, Ellen Fader, review of Nelson in Love, p. 198; September-October, 1994, Ellen Fader, review of The Baby Blues, p. 584.
Indianapolis News, August 7, 1984, Helen Janousek, "She Grew up to Tell Tales."
Kirkus Reviews, February 1, 2004, review of Jess and the Stinky Cowboys, p. 138.
Right Here, January-February, 1985, Marie T. Baker, "Area Author, Janice Lee Smith."
School Library Journal, January, 1991, Pamela K. Bomboy, review of The Turkey's Side of It: Adam Joshua's Thanksgiving, p. 81; October, 1991, Pamela K. Bomboy, review of There's a Ghost in the Coatroom, p. 104; March, 1992, Diane S. Marton, review of Nelson in Love, p. 224; June, 1992, Lauralyn Persson, review of Serious Science, p. 89; June, 1998, Maura Bresnahan, review of Wizard and Wart in Trouble, p. 122; February, 2004, Anne Knickerbocker, review of Jess and the Stinky Cowboys, p. 122.*
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