Meet the World's Funniest Kindergartner—Junie B. Jones!
It's kindergarten graduation! With over 50 million books in print, Barbara Park's New York Times bestselling chapter book series, Junie B. Jones, is a classroom favorite and has been keeping kids laughing—and reading—for over 20 years! In the 17th Junie B. Jones book, all the children in Room Nine are excited when they get their bright white graduation gowns. Mrs. says to keep them in their boxes until the big day. But Junie B. Jones just can't help herself. Then—uh-oh!—an accident happens! Can Junie B. find a way to fix things? Or will graduation be a spotty dotty disaster?
"Junie B. is the darling of the young-reader set."
"Park convinces beginning readers that Junie B.—and reading—are lots of fun."
"Junie's swarms of young fans will continue to delight in her unique take on the world….A hilarious, first-rate read-aloud."
"Junie B. Jones is a feisty six-year-old with an endearing penchant for honesty."
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"My second-grade son has never been all that interested in reading. He came home one day asking if I have ever read about Junie B. Jones. I bought a set of Junie B. books, and now I walk past his room and he is reading on his own!"—Nancy G., Indiana
"I have a six-year-old daughter who was fighting us on learning to read. One day, I heard her teacher reading a Junie B. story. We went to our library and checked out every Junie B. book they had. Now we go through one every three days!"—Sandra L., Idaho
"Our family wanted to tell you how much we enjoyed your Junie B. Jones books. Our son brought one home from school and we read it together. We all laughed through the whole book."—Idaho family
"My daughter and I love Junie B. Jones. She had some difficult times reading in second grade. Your books really helped her have fun while she reads."—Barbara M., New Jersey
"I would like to let you know how much pleasure your books have given us. After my older daughter finishes them, I read them to my six-year-old. You give this world such a gift with your books."—Amy D., Florida
"I've been teaching for 29 years. My class has never enjoyed story time as much [as when I started reading Junie B. Jones.] The class enjoyed her not-so-perfect grammar. We used her sentences for our daily oral language lesson."—Angie T., Pennsylvania
"In my experience, students no matter what their age have enjoyed your Junie B. books. Whenever the day is particularly hectic, I can rely on a Junie B. time-out for a relaxing laugh and a reminder to look on the lighter side. You have saved my sanity more times than you can ever know!"—Shelley M., Maryland
"You have made even my most reluctant readers look forward to each new chapter."—Mary Ann O., Illinois
"Junie B. has touched the hearts of all my students throughout the year. She has become a part of our school lives . . . and in a way, another member of our class."—Amy P., New Jersey
"I've been a teacher for more than 30 years and just discovered Junie B. Jones. I noticed that children have an increased enthusiasm for reading as a direct result of your books."—Rona G., Maryland
"I cannot tell you how much I love reading your books! My mom and I laugh so hard, our stomachs hurt and we get tears in our eyes."—Kristi O., Pennsylvania
"I love Junie B. Jones! Every time I go anywhere in the car, I bring at least five Junie B. Jones books. I can't leave home without them."—Liz O., New Jersey
"Your books are so cool. You write your books so they relate to life."—Kayla O., Pennsylvania
"I love Junie B. Jones books. I think they are so funny I could read them all day and laugh out loud. But in the afternoon, I want to watch Arthur."—Laura P., Iowa
"I love your books so much whenever I'm in bed I always shout 'Mom! Where are my Junie B. Jones books?!'"—Tim K., Pennsylvania
"You write the best books in the world."—Manuel L., Colorado
About Barbara Park
I grew up in Mt. Holly, New Jersey. It was a small town surrounded by farmland . . . the kind of town where you greet people by name on Main Street. It was only an hour’s drive to the ocean. So every summer we spent family vacations on Long Beach Island. My brother and I would ride the waves during the day and play miniature golf at night. It’s the kind of idyllic memory that stays in your head long after you’ve grown up and moved away.
After graduating from high school and spending two years at Rider University, I transferred to the University of Alabama where I met my husband, Richard. Eventually his job brought him to Arizona. We both fell in love with the desert and wanted to stay here forever. Still, during the heat of the Arizona summers, those ocean memories would come rushing back. So–after years of sweaty summers–my husband and I finally built a house on Long Beach Island, the same island where my brother and I rode the waves as kids. In the story business, that’s called “coming full circle.” These days, Richard and I divide our time between the desert and the ocean. In the words of Junie B. Jones, I’m a lucky duck.
Q. What inspired you to start writing?
In my case, it was sort of “reverse” inspiration. I got a degree in secondary education. My plan was to teach high school history and political science. But, because of a scheduling problem my senior year, I ended up doing my student teaching in the seventh grade. The word disaster doesn’t really cover this one. I’ll spare you the details. But as I ran screaming from the school building every day, I knew that I would never be a teacher. My husband and I married after graduation, and started a family. A few years later, when I was ready to go to work, I was still haunted by the memories of student teaching. So I was “inspired” to try my hand at writing instead.
Q. How did you go about getting published?
The first children's novel I wrote was Operation: Dump the Chump. As soon as it was finished, I bought a copy of Writer’s Market, found some addresses, and started sending it off to publishers who were accepting unsolicited manuscripts. It was rejected three times. All three rejections managed to work in the classic industry one-liner, “It isn’t right for our list.”
The fourth time I sent it to Alfred Knopf, Inc. A few weeks later, they called and said it was exactly right for their list. I felt like I’d hit the lottery.
Q: You’ve written middle-grade novels, early chapter books, and picture books. Which do you like writing best?
I can’t really say which I like best. But after all the Junie B. books I’ve written, those certainly come the easiest. The middle-grade novels are more of a challenge. But in some ways, that makes them more rewarding. The last two I’ve written (Mick Harte Was Here and The Graduation of Jake Moon) were both about very sensitive topics, so it took a long time to get them exactly right. But I think those two books have made me the most proud.
Q. Tell us about your most recent picture book.
It’s called, MA! There’s Nothing to Do Here! It’s about a baby in utero who is bored out of his mind. The idea for it was born (so to speak) when my daughter-in-law, Renee, invited me to my first grandson’s ultrasound. Although I had never had an ultrasound myself, I’d seen pictures of other babies in utero. But I wasn’t prepared for how amazing it would be to see my own little grandbaby on that screen. I felt like I was watching the Discovery Channel.
Q. How much did you continue to think about the baby after seeing the ultrasound? How did this develop into the idea for the book?
A. On the way out of the doctor’s office, I remember thinking, Okay, so now we’re all going back to our busy lives. But the baby is still in there just floating around. Except for an occasional kick or hiccup, he’s got absolutely nothing to do.
A few months later–when I was getting ready to give Renee a baby shower–I wrote this poem, framed it, and gave it to her as a shower gift.
Q. Of the characters you’ve created, who is your favorite?
A. This would be a bit like picking a favorite child. I don't have a single favorite character, but again, I lived with the characters Mick and Phoebe Harte and Jake and Skelly Moon for a very long time. So those four are the most dear to me.
The characters I've had the most fun with have been the little ones. Little kids are so free to say whatever is on their minds. They aren’t silenced by peer pressure and the notion that they have to sound cool. Molly Vera Thompson in The Kid in the Red Jacket is six, and Thomas Russo in My Mother Got Married and Other Disasters is five. They both were such fun to write about that they led to the creation of Junie B. Jones.
Q. Is Junie B. modeled after you as a child? Did you ever do any of the things that Junie B. does?
A. I was sent to “Principal” in first grade for talking. There were lots of notes sent home that year, as well. My father was on the Board of Education. Not good.
Q. There’s been some criticism of the Junie-speak in the series. How do you answer concerns that Junie's grammar is not good for young readers?
A. Honestly, most of the grown-ups I hear from are writing to tell me that Junie B. Jones got their reluctant readers to read. I have drawers full of letters from parents and teachers that are so meaningful to me, I can’t bear to part with them. These are adults who understand that fictional literature plays a whole different role in children’s lives than a book of grammar or a basic reader.
That having been said, there are always going to be a handful of people who denigrate books that speak in a voice other than their own. I’ve stopped trying to explain the concept of literature to people like that. Wasted time better spent.
8. What makes you laugh?
My sense of humor is a little bit off-center, I think. In the movies, I usually laugh at parts that no one else seems to think are funny. Then there are movies like Young Frankenstein where I laugh from the opening scene straight through to the end.
Lots of other things make me laugh, as well. My husband and sons make me laugh. My dog. My grandsons. Friends. The absurdities of life. My lopsided cakes. The list goes on . . .
What advice do you have for teachers that are aspiring writers? For kids?
There’s nothing revolutionary in my advice, I’m afraid. It’s the same old stuff. Write as much and as often as you can. Try different genres to find your niche. Then rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. And–above all–be your own worst critic.
ALMOST STARRING SKINNYBONES
“As always, Park is laugh-out-loud funny and kids will have a wonderful time with this story.”—Booklist
JUNIE B., FIRST GRADER (AT LAST!)
“Park’s feisty, funny heroine retains her trademark use of language, mirthful malapropisms, and essential larger-than-life personality.”—Kirkus Reviews
JUNIE B., FIRST GRADER: BOSS OF LUNCH
“Hooray for Junie and hooray for the grown-ups in her life who accept her, loud mouth and all.”—Kirkus Reviews
JUNIE B. JONES IS (ALMOST) A FLOWER GIRL
“As with all the other books in this laugh-out-loud series, Junie B.’s slightly skewed, kidlike takes on the world appeal every bit as much to fourth graders as to first graders.”—Instructor
JUNIE B. JONES IS A BEAUTY SHOP GUY
“The honesty and inventiveness of this savvy kindergartner make the Junie B. books accessible and completely enjoyable.”—School Library Journal
THE KID IN THE RED JACKET
“Park writes in a witty and bittersweet style about the awkward, super-sensitive age of early adolescence; her humor reflects and sharpens the sensibilities of her readers in the areas of family and friend relationships.”—Starred, School Library Journal
MAXIE, ROSIE, AND EARL—PARTNERS IN GRIME
“Funny and very appealing.”—The Horn Book Magazine
MICK HARTE WAS HERE
“Park’s latest offering is a short, yet surprisingly deep and powerful look at the death of a sibling . . . The book’s tone of sadness is mitigated by humor, reassurance, and hope.”—Starred, School Library Journal
MY MOTHER GOT MARRIED
And Other Disasters
“At times both funny and touching, this . . . paints a realistic picture of life in a blended family.”—School Library Journal
OPERATION: DUMP THE CHUMP
“Kids might see the punch line coming, but they’ll be laughing out loud all the way there.”—Booklist