Welcome to Everyone is Talking About, a new feature on the Johnson Elementary School Learning Leopard Library blog that features books and series that students just can’t stop talking about! Check out our Everyone is Talking About posts to learn more about some of the most commonly checked-out, requested, and reviewed books in the Learning Leopard Library.
This week, Everyone is Talking About Junie B. Jones, the spunky first grader that stars in Barbara Park’s Junie B. Jones series. Not only is Barbara Park our featured author for the month of December, but the Junie B. books are some of the most circulated in our collection. The series includes more than 30 books, and has been adapted into theatrical performances, video games, and educational videos. Junie B. is one of the most beloved – and at times, most challenged – characters of recent memory.
To get some more info on what makes Junie B. such a hit, I talked to Johnson Elementary School’s resident Junie B. Jones expert, Mrs. Rickabaugh. Mrs. Rickabaugh is a fourth grade teacher at Johnson, and you might remember her fabulous Junie B. costume from our Picture Book Celebration last month (for a reminder, visit the blog post here). Mrs. Rickabaugh is a huge fan of Barbara Park and her lovable Junie B. Jones stories.
When I asked Mrs. Rickabaugh why she loves the Junie B. Jones books so much, she responded, “I love them because they depict real life for a first grader. Junie goes through typical issues for kids – issues with family and friends.” She loves that the books make her laugh, but also enjoys how realistic they are, stating that students can easily relate and see themselves in the stories.
Author Barbara Park has written multiple picture books, teen novels, and childrens stories, but she is best known for the Junie B. Jones series. Park’s books are sometimes challenged by parents or teachers because they use a realistic, child-like dialect that isn’t always grammatically correct. Some adults feel that the books set poor examples because of their less-than-perfect grammar or snarky jokes; but Park has famously stated that she enjoys writing for kids, and that she wants to create books with language that kids can relate to. Mrs. Rickabaugh agrees that the unique vocabulary is one of the best features of Junie’s character voice. “Some people don’t like the books, because the language isn’t always typical or proper English,” she said. “But I think that’s what makes them special.”
The Junie B. Jones series fills a need within the Johnson Elementary School Library, as a series that helps to bridge the gap between easy-reader books and novels. “Junie B. is a great introduction into chapter books for kids that aren’t quite ready to begin reading novels,” says Mrs. Rickabaugh. “They’re easy to read and fast paced, and really funny.” Johnson’s students definitely agree, because Junie’s adventures are constantly being checked out by students of all grade levels. Every reader has a favorite Junie B. moment – Mrs. Rickabaugh’s favorites is Junie B. Jones, First Grader at Last!
When it came to answering my most difficult question, “If you had to describe the Junie B. Jones books in one word, what would it be?”, Mrs. Rickabaugh had a hard time choosing an answer. “I think I would say outrageous,” she finally answered. “And ridiculous. In a good way!” Johnson’s other fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Randolph, overheard us chatting and added, “I would say sassy!”
To learn more about Junie B. Jones and Barbara Park’s other books for children and teens, visit juniebjones.com. Author Barbara Park passed away last month, and has been memorialized in many articles that give more detail about her work and life; here is an example from the Washington Post, published on November 17th. The Junie B. Jones books can be found in the Fiction section of the Johnson Elementary School Library, in our Featured Author display or shelved with the call number F PAR. A special thank you goes to Mrs. Rickabaugh for her help!