Thursday, July 20, 2006


Another virtual vacation for your summer reading pleasure

Junie B., First Grader: Aloha-ha-ha! by Barbara Park, 2006

Junie B. Jones is back and she is so excited she is spinning in her seat because she is going on a vakashum vacation to Hawaii.

Her teacher tells her she will have to keep a photo journal of her trip which seems like homework to Junie B. ("Teachers and children do not have the same kind of brains.")
Sandwiched between two grumpy ladies on the plane she keeps up with the hilarious exchange from her backpack, between her stuffed elephant Philip Johnny Bob and her new Hula Barbie aka Hula Delores.

Some aspects of Hawaii are great (pineapple and coconut pancakes) and others are not to a first grader's taste (tour buses.) Entries in her photo journal cleverly chronicle events and Junie B.'s mood.

Barbara Park taps into the child's psyche with these books because they ALL know a kid like Junie B. (or they ARE a kid like Junie B.)

Her humor also reaches grown ups as she demonstrates that sly knowledge that makes Junie a favorite read aloud in classrooms. After negotiating a truce with Junie B., her teacher, Mr. Scary, re-orients yet another student and Junie B. reflects, "Teachers spend a lot of time adjusting people."

Park wryly evokes the joys of vacationing with children:

Those two have lazy bones. Only I am not allowed to jiggle them awake anymore.
Or else Mother turns out cranky.

I kept waiting real patient for their eyes to open.
Then finally, I tippytoed next to Daddy. And I blew air in his face.
He opened one eyeball.
I waved very pleasant.

Hello. How are you today?" I said.
"Look. I am already dressed for breakfast."
Daddy closed his eyeball.
I opened it up again.
"Whoops. I lost you there for a second, " I said.

This is one of my favorite Junie B.s


Kelsey said...

I just came across your site. I am a former first grade teacher/current stay at home mom and graduate student in library media education.

I LOVE Junie B. and I am so glad to see her included here. Many teachers I worked with didn't enjoy these books because of "inappropriate/incorrect language" and the fact that Junie B. doesn't always respect authority. Personally, I found them hilarious and full of teachable moments. I am so excited for my daughter (20 months) to be old enough to enjoy Junie B.!

Gail Gauthier said...

My sister-in-law hates Junie B. so much that she recently admitted that she exchanged the Junie B. book I gave my niece a few years back. I was okay with that because I've only read a couple of the books and don't have strong feelings one way or the other about them.

But it is rather fun to get my sister-in-law going on this subject. For some people it's Bush. For Jan, it's Junie B.

MotherReader said...

Thank you for profiling this funny book and giving another voice for Junie B. I love her, love the books, and loved this one especially. You hit the nail right on the head with the statement that all kids know a kid like Junie B. or ARE a kid like Junie B. It makes the books feel real to a kid in a way few others can. Plus also (that's a Junie B phrase), they are funny to adults with kids for the same reason. They know a kid like Junie B. or they HAVE a kid like Junie B., so can relate as well.

Camille said...

I have never understood why people get their knickers in such a twist about Junie B. but Gail is correct about the strength of feelings about Junie-speak.

If I feel I have to offer a disclaimer to a hyperventilating grown-up, I relate her way of speaking to dialect or vernacular.

It might surprise some worrywarts, but I have never heard a kid adopt Junie-speak no matter how many of her books that they read. If it were THAT easy, we would introduce Shakespeare in Kindergarten.

One of the absolute best thing about Junie B is that she is a great introduction to series books. If I can get a kid hooked on a series, I will have a reader.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I wasn't going to get involved in another Junie B. debate, but it's too hot and humid to do much of anything else...

I completely agree with Camille, but will add that we also never see kids adopting the bizarre (to modern English) nursery rhymes we sing to 'em: "Have you any wool?", etc. There are two points here: 1)children's native grammar mechanisms know what input to use and what to ignore and 2)by the time a kid is Junie B.-ish age, their grammar mechanism has already decided what settings it likes, and would have to deliberately, consciously work to change them. (Uncomfortable with the biological determinism here? Puberty works the same way - timed to go on, and then off, at particular developmental ages...)

Also, as people might be tired of hearing from me by now ;), Junie B.'s grammar provides some really neat insights into the way language in general, and English specifically, works. What process underlies the creation of words like "bestest" and "beautifuller"? Why do we say "ran" instead of the more rule-obedient "runned", anyway?

Shoot me an email (in my user profile) and I'd be happy to share an article on this topic. :)