The Junie B. Jones series by author Barbara Park is one of the most highly read children’s book series for beginning readers. It’s also on the American Library Association’s list of Top 100 Banned or Challenged Books from 2000-2009 because of complaints by parents. Yet, despite the controversy over these books, kids still love them – and that’s good news for writers, who can learn plenty from Junie B. Jones.
Junie B. Jones Books: Parents Versus Children’s Writers
According to the ALA, two Junie B. Jones titles were formally “challenged,” which means an attempt was made to remove them and restrict their access to others. In 2006, parents of the Wake County, North Carolina, schools challenged Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky, Peeky Spying for not adhering to family and social values. Years earlier, a parent from the Harmony Township school in New Jersey complained that Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus sent a bad message to kids about extreme emotions, like hate.
In addition to the above formal challenges, though, many parents have spoken out against the entire series and have privately banned the books, says a July 2007 article in the New York Times. Parents worry that Junie B. is a poor role model for their children, from her poor spelling and grammar to her troublemaking and mouthiness.
But while she may not set the best example for kids, she does just the opposite for children’s writers. A young protagonist who’s silly, rebellious, unsure of herself, prone to making mistakes, impulsive, and imperfect, Junie B. is exactly the type of character a child will connect with. For children’s writers, she’s the ideal role model.
Children’s Writing Tips from Barbara Park
Of course, not all parents have a problem with Junie B. Jones. In fact, many read Barbara Park’s beloved series and laugh right along with their children. That’s because Junie B. is funny – and real. Besides that, Junie B. Jones stories are fast-paced and engaging. Barbara Park captivates her readers with these tools and keeps them coming back for more. In doing so, she conveys valuable writing advice.
Good character development and engaging storylines are just a couple of things Barbara Park teaches children’s writers through her Junie B. Jones books. She also shows how important it is for writers to be subtle with a story’s message. Junie B. doesn’t get away with her antics, but she learns through her mistakes – and does it while entertaining the reader.
Junie B. Jones books offer many other writing tips for children’s writers. Here are a some of the most noteworthy:
- Humor sells; use it often
- Create an imperfect protagonist
- Create dialogue that’s real rather than grammatically correct
- Focus on quirky character traits
- Don’t let adult characters solve the problem
- Connect with the audience
- Stray from the conventional
- Use fresh story lines
- Have fun!
Although disliked by some, Junie B. Jones books have given beginning readers a unique story character who inspires them to read. But these books benefit children’s writers, too. Through her characters and storylines, Barbara Park shares valuable writing advice – something that makes even a challenged book worth keeping around.
For more children’s writing tips and advice, see:
Tips on Writing Historical Fiction for Kids
Four Keys to Writing Biographies for Teens and Young Adults
Writing Nonfiction for Kids: Focus Research on Primary Sources
Doyle, Robert P. 2010 Banned Books Resource Guide. American Library Association.
Grossman, Anna Jane. “Is Junie B. Jones Talking Trash?” New York Times, July 26, 2007.