Monday, July 18, 2011

Junie B. Jones Series

Titles: Junie B. Jones
Junie B. Jones, First Grader
(27 books in all, plus The Essential Survival Guide to School)

Author: Barbara Park

Rating: * (1 star out of 3 possible, "C")
Recommended with Reservations

Audience: 5-7 year-old girls

Most parents probably have a love/hate relationship with Junie B. Jones. Barbara Park was influenced by Beverly Cleary's Ramona Quimby, but Junie B. falls rather short of comparison for several reasons.

First of all, the plots are simple and singular. The reader really is not going to learn a lot about life in the real world from Junie B. Consequently, the reader will probably not identify very strongly with her, either. We will laugh along with some of her predicaments and her faux pas, but she will not really stick with us or influence us to any great degree.

Additionally, she is a pretty one-dimensional character. She tends to entertain us with one humorous line after another, but she doesn't spend much time in introspection or maturation. Along these lines, many parents will be disappointed with her language and behavior. She tends to be sassy and mischievous without a lot of the redeeming qualities (creativity, imagination, remorse, personal growth) one finds in a Ramona character.

However, on the positive side, she can engage kids with her antics, and they are, for the most part, harmless. Also, her books are short enough for shorter attention spans. So if you are having trouble finding books your 5 or 6 year old likes, this may be an option for you. As with so much of our pop culture, a little dab will do you. It's reasonable for kids to enjoy this along with their Garfield comics, as long as parents continue to supplement with the really good stuff! Of course, some families will choose to pass on these, and they won't be missing much.