Junie B. Jones: speaking for first-graders for 20 years

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comMay 21, 2012 

  • Who is Junie B. Jones?

    A look at Junie B. Jones in her own words from the Random House Web site.

    Name: "Me! Me! It's Junie B. Jones!"

    Likes: "My grampa Frank Miller. Plus his lovely wife Helen. Mother and Daddy (sometimes). My bestest friend Herbert (all the time!). Pasketti and meatballs. Cheese sandwiches."

    Dislikes: "In kindergarten, I did not like Jim I Hate. Only then it turned out that he loved me. And so I did a flip-flop on that friendship. This year, I do not like Tattletale May. Also, I do not like roosters ... and clowns ... and ponies that stomple you to death."

  • Junie B. read-alikes

    Looking for a book similar to the Junie B. Jones series? Try these:

    The Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume

    Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren

    Ramona Quimby by Beverly Cleary

    Grace by Mary Hoffman

    Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows

    Judy Moody by Megan McDonald

    Clarice Bean by Lauren Child

    Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

    Gloria by Ann Cameron

    Gooney Bird Greene by Lois Lowry

    You could win a book

    Like Bluegrassmoms on Facebook, and you could win a hardcover 20th-anniversary edition of Stupid Smelly Bus.

Wowie, wow, wow — Junie B. is 20!

Junie B. Jones, the perpetual elementary school student who is unafraid to speak her mind and no stranger to the principal's office, has been around for 20 years. Since her creation by author Barbara Park, she has been featured in more than 30 books.

Some parents might think back to their childhoods and remember much tamer literary stars, said Mary Landrum, the children's librarian at the Northside Branch of the Lexington Public Library.

But Junie B. is an extension of a shift in children's literature that began in the 1960s, she said.

Maurice Sendak, author of Where the Wild Things Are, and who died earlier this month, was one of the first not to just give us "well-scrubbed, well-behaved children," Landrum said. "He gave us kids as they are."

Junie B. — B is for Beatrice — is like that.

"She's relatable. She's in situations that kids see themselves in every day," Landrum said. She has to go to school, cope with other kids, do what she's told, Landrum said, "and she doesn't always like it."

Several hundred rabid fans and their parents turned out at Joseph-Beth Booksellers when Junie B.'s Stupid Smelly Bus tour came to town a few years ago, said Becca Wren, who manages the children's department.

"It was so great to see so many kids ramped up about a particular character," she said. "Junie B. is very much a real kid. She feels anger, she feels happy, she just shows them that she's not perfect, and nobody is."

Kendra Adkisson likes reading the books with her daughter, Violet E. Ferguson, and Junie's sass and personality are among the reasons. She said the books are a favorite of her daughter, who "laughs out loud."

Adkisson, who also has two boys, said Junie's travails — losing teeth, figuring out Valentine's Day, moving to a new room at school — mirror the big moments in the lives of her own children.

The first time she caught her daughter sneaking a read after bedtime, it was a Junie B. book.

"I had to smile," she said. "I have a reader on my hands."

And that is one reason Landrum says that Junie B. might continue to be a favorite.

"I expect she will be around for a long time," she said.

Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.

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