If you grew up in the late 90s, or early 2000s, you’ve probably had the joy of reading a Junie B. Jones book at some point in your childhood. Barbara Park, the beloved author of the Junie B. Jones series, as well as other chapter books for the middle grade audience, would have celebrated her 74th birthday today. Her readership mourned her passing in 2013 deeply, and as a fellow author, I personally felt the loss of a great pioneer of kid’s literature. So today, I would just like to go off on a fangirl tangent and tell y’all why I consider Mrs. Barbara Park to be a literary genius.
She Was a Boss at Character Creation
The Junie B. Jones series was everybody’s jam back in elementary school, and rightfully so, because they were the books we as kids could relate to most. Park had an ingenious ability to write form the point-of-view of a Kindergartner in a way that came off as not only authentic to readers of all ages, but 100% relatable as well. That’s because, unlike other books written for younger readers, Park chose not to write the books in a way that tried to “dumb it down” for little kids. Instead, she met them on their level, using the same phrases, grammar, and commonly confused words kids use. By doing so, Junie B. never comes off as a one-dimensional fictional character; rather, she leaps from the pages.
Readers can easily visualize Junie B.’s antics–not because of good descriptions, but because Junie B. acts like most kids–loud, full of energy, spontaneous, loving the simple things in life, often making ill-thought-out decisions, etc. Yet, even though she embodies the childlike aspects we’ve all possessed at some point, Junie B. has a personality that’s all her own, making her unforgettable. Her stories are character driven rather than plot-driven, which sets her narrative apart from the vast majority of kid’s lit. As a result, Park created an adorable spitfire gem of a fictional character who, in the minds of readers, will always feel more like a long-lost BFF from elementary school instead of a girl from a book series.
She Challenged How Kid Lit Was Written
Back in the day, the Junie B. Jones series caused a stir, because it purposely included bad grammar, misspellings, etc. Like I said before, Park chose to write Junie B.’s narration in kid-speak so kids could relate to it more. Though many people disliked this aspect of the books, Park stated that she had received tons of feedback from parents and teachers thanking her for convincing their once reluctant readers to read. For the naysayers, she had this to say:
“…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.Barbara Park, via a Q&A session
It’s such a mic-drop reaction to opposition, and as an author, I appreciate her candidness on the subject.
The thing about literature is that it is a creative endeavor that allows authors to express themselves, and their thoughts, to the world around them. By unapologetically doing her own thing, and giving kids a voice, Park was truly a literary genius in my eyes. She will always serve as one of my greatest writing inspirations, and her contributions will never be forgotten. ❤
Talk to Me, Arrowheads!
Are you a fan of Park’s books? What is your favorite Junie B. Jones book? Let me know in the comments!
Aim high, stay strong, and always hit your mark.