Junie B. Jones
by Barbara Park

Some Junie B. Jones books:

Children's book review by Steve Barancik

Ages 5-?

Here's what I remember about grade school: there was nothing more uncool than kids who were younger than you, by even a grade.

We wanted nothing to do with them. It was embarrassing to remember that we ever could have been that young! That clueless!

If you want to know what's so amazing about the Junie B. Jones series of books, let's start there. Older kids can't get enough of this kindergartener (who goes on to become a first grader). I mean, look at the list of Junie B. Jones books (on your right).

As of this writing there are already 27 best selling books in the series. And they're all being read by kids who are older than the star of the books!

So, what is it about Junie B. that has older kids of both genders so enthralled? Well, scan the Junie B. titles if you want an idea. This little kid is a riot! She's the little sister bigger kids wish they had!

Junie says what she thinks. If she doesn't know about something, it won't keep her from acting like she does. Take this passage from Junie B.'s first book, Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus:

It wasn't a regular kind of door, though. It folded in half. And when it closed, it made a whishy sound.

I don't like that kind of door. If it closes on you by accident, it will cut you in half, and you will make a squishy sound.

The bus made a big roar. Then a big puff of black smelly smoke came out the back end of it. It's called bus breath, I think.

Or this one:

From Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus.

Each of the books is essentially Junie B. (don't call her Junie without the B!) in stream of consciousness mode, walking us through life as an overly opinionated 6 year old practically in real time.

Her questionable diction, limited vocabulary, lack of impulse control and inability to keep her thoughts to herself pretty much make for a laugh every paragraph. Seasoned seven year olds must find themselves thinking:

"Ah! This is what it was like to be young!"

Whether she's explaining that "clear" is "the color of spit" or that she needs a Band-Aid because even though Mom pulled out the splinter Junie got from the picnic table a few days ago, "there's still some table in there," Junie knows what she wants and she's never afraid to ask for it.

As long as someone has called having-to-go-to-the-bathroom-right-away an "emergency," know that Junie B. Jones will feel justified in calling 911 when she finds the bathroom door locked.

(In case you can't tell, I enjoy the Junie B. Jones books as much as I enjoy grown-up books!)

I've sampled both the kindergarten and the first grade books and the quality is consistent; Barbara Park has these books and this character nailed down to a science. For that reason, I recommend starting your child at the beginning, with Stupid Smelly Bus or the first boxed set.

These aren't picture books, but they do contain black and white illustrations, and author Park has been faithful to artist Denise Brunkus throughout the series. Brunkus captures a character completely devoid of self-consciousness, always sure of what she wants and what she thinks.

It's that lack of self-consciousness that makes the Junie B. books a joy for children (and even adults) of all ages. Oh, to be Junie B. and say what we think all the time!

Read more of Steve's reviews.

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