Obit of the Day: Creator of “Junie B. Jones”
Junie B. Jones is called “the funniest kindergartner ever,” “irreverent,” “loud-mouthed,” and, even “inappropriate.” The school girl protagonist of thirty children’s chapter books was the creation of author Barbara Park. Mrs. Park, who modeled Junie after some of her own class clowning, would write 30 books about Junie B. between 1992 and 2013.
Mrs. Park, who originally planned on becoming a teacher until she stepped into a classroom, began writing books for children in the 1980s. She shopped her first manuscript, Operation Dump the Chump, to three different publishers until it was purchased by Alfred A. Knopf. Ironically, Dump the Chump would be Mrs. Park’s second book published by Knopf (1982), a year after she made her debut with Don’t Make Me Smile (1981). She would write 13 non-Junie B. Jones novels during her career.
But her beloved Junie B. Jones was her greatest legacy. By the time of Mrs. Park’s death the series had sold 55 million copies as young readers followed the school girl’s exploits. Originally set in kindergarten, Junie B. Jones was able to reach the first grade after eighteen years, a lengthy stay Mrs. Park acknowledged in her 2001 book Junie B. Jones, First Grader: At Last!
As popular as Junie B. Jones was with kids, her slang and attitude were deemed inappropriate by some adults. Between 2000 and 2009, the Junie B. Jones series was the 71st most challenged/banned book in the United States according to the American Library Association. (Number 72? Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison.)
Outside of books, Mrs. Park served as the CEO and co-founder of Sisters in Survival (SIS), a non-profit which provides money for ovarian cancer diagnosis and treatment to patients who could not otherwise afford it.
Mrs. Park died on November 15, 2013 at the age of 66 of complications from ovarian cancer.
(Images are all copyright of Random House, Barbara Park, and Denise Brunkus and courtesy of: top left, scholastic.com; top right, examiner.com; middle left, The Cotton Boll Conspiracy; middle right, juniebjones.com; bottom left, indiebound.com; bottom right, escobookstore.com)