Discover More About the Beloved Character, Creators, and Series
by Alexie Basil
We dug up seven awesome fun facts about Junie B., the beloved series, author Barbara Park, and more—because we can’t get enough of Junie B. Jones, that’s why!
Share these tidbits with your students and take your class behind the scenes into the rambunctious, kid-favorite series.
1. Many Readers Know What the “B.” Stands for, but Few Know Junie B. Jones’s Full Name—or These Rare Facts!
Junie B. Jones’s full name is Juniper Beatrice Jones. She was born on June 1—or Junie the First, as she likes to call it. Barbara Park admittedly made up the “B.” in Junie B. on a lark, after she “ran a bunch of ‘B’ names through [her] head.”
Barbara once wrote a “10 Top-Secret Personal Facts About Me, Junie B. by Junie B. Jones” to celebrate the launch of Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, the first Junie B. Jones book. Here are some of our favorite takeaways from the list:
• Junie B.’s favorite food is lemon pie, but she also likes spaghetti and meatballs (or “’pasketti”), whipped cream in a can, and sugar cookies.
• Her favorite fruits, on the other hand, are fruit loops, cherry Jell-O, grape Kool-Aid, orange Popsicles, strawberry shortcake, blueberry pancakes, and chocolate-covered raisins.
• Her dream job is to be the janitor of her school, so she can save people from danger, paint litter cans, and carry keys to the bathroom.
2. Junie B. Jones Has Impacted a Lot of Readers All Over the World
Since the series was first published in 1992, more than 55 million copies of the 28 Junie B. Jones books have been sold worldwide. These bestselling stories have been translated into more than a dozen languages and featured by the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, Book Sense, USA Today, and more.
Barbara Park received more than 1,000 fan letters every month! This might have something to do with the fact that Barbara made Junie B. so relatable—in part, because she was inspired by herself as an elementary schooler in Mount Holly, New Jersey!
In a 2004 interview with USA Today, Barbara revealed that “I was a good kid, but I was just very chatty. Teachers were rarely entertained, but occasionally a child was, which was enough for me. Everything was so urgent. I needed to say it immediately.”
3. But Like Junie B. Herself, the Books’ Spunkiness Sometimes Draws Criticism
The same word fumbles and incorrect grammar that help us see ourselves and other young people reflected in Junie B. also rub some readers the wrong way.
Barbara Park once responded to the criticism, saying, “The teachers get [the way Junie B. speaks] and the kids get it. She’s five. It would be ridiculous for her to speak the Queen’s English.…She’s a work in progress.”
We—and millions of other Junie B. fans—agree! And we especially appreciate the learning opportunities that Junie B.’s mistakes create. For example, students can stay more grounded in the text by keeping an eye out for grammatical errors!
“The teachers get [the way Junie B. speaks] and the kids get it. She’s five. It would be ridiculous for her to speak the Queen’s English.…She is a work in progress. I am not an author who believes in a big, heavy moral. I think it’s a little insulting.” —Barbara Park, in an Interview with Delia O’Hara
4. Illustrator Denise Brunkus Was the Only Choice for Junie B. Jones
When Cathy Goldsmith, the Vice President and Associate Publishing Director of Random House / Golden Books Young Readers Group, was first choosing an illustrator for Junie B. Jones, she had only Denise Brunkus in mind.
“Denise’s samples were the only ones I presented,” Cathy said. “I had one of her postcards on my bulletin board for years, and I’d always hoped to find something that we could work on together. Her characters have real attitude—and attitude is what Junie is all about.”
Barbara Park approved of Denise too. “The very first illustrations I saw of Junie B. Jones (in Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus) brought instant smiles. From the very beginning, I love the sense of fun Denise brings to her artwork,” Barbara said.
5. Denise Brunkus Consulted Her Niece to Help Perfect Junie B.’s Personal Artistic Style
Something we love about Denise Brunkus is that she does her research! For an illustration in Junie B. Jones Has a Peep in Her Pocket, Denise wanted to draw Junie B. proudly showing off an image of a rooster trapped under a fallen tree.
In order to help herself get in the mind of a first grader, Denise “hired” her five-year-old niece to give the drawing a shot. Junie B.’s drawing in the final book is a near-identical reproduction!
6. Junie B. Jones Was Adapted Into a Musical by Music Theatre International
Junie B. Jones, the Musical is an original adaptation written by Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich of four Junie B. Jones books. It’s set up as a peek into Junie B.’s “Top-Secret Personal Beeswax Journal” and features Junie B.’s first day of first grade, her realization that she needs glasses, a friendly cafeteria lady, a kickball tournament, and more zany real-life scenarios.
While schools and theater troupes all over the country have put on the musical, we were really impressed by this 2018 performance by Minnetonka Middle School West’s sixth graders. If your students love Junie B. and performing, you should check it out!
7. Judy Blume Is a Fan of Junie B.!
Barbara Park once said that Judy Blume inspired her to write children’s books. And once she wrote them, she gained the admiration of Judy Blume herself.
“I’m Judy B. and lots of kids just assumed I was Junie B. Jones and had written the books,” Blume once said in an interview with the Associated Press. “I’d always say, ‘I didn’t write them, but I wish I had.’”
When asked about why she thought the Junie B. Jones series was so popular, Barbara said: “I’ve always thought that the books are successful because teachers and parents have as much fun with them as their kids. I think it’s that simple.”
Barbara Park was best known as the creator and author of the New York Times–bestselling Junie B. Jones series, the stories of an outrageously funny kindergartner, and later first grader, that have kept kids (and their grown-ups) laughing—and reading—for more than two decades. The series was consistently a #1 New York Times bestseller, spending more than 180 weeks on the list, and Barbara and her books were profiled in such national outlets as Time, Newsweek, USA Today, the New York Times, and Today.
Barbara Park arrived at the writing profession through an indirect route. Before becoming a bestselling and beloved children’s author, she originally intended to teach high school history and political science. She got her secondary education degree but quickly realized that her calling was to be a writer. After several rejections, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers acquired her first manuscript, Operation: Dump the Chump and two others. Don’t Make Me Smile was published first in 1981, followed by Operation: Dump the Chump and Skinnybones in 1982. She went on to write more than 50 books, from the picture book Ma! There’s Nothing to Do Here!, a love letter to her grandson, to middle grade novels such as Skinnybones, The Kid in the Red Jacket, Mick Harte Was Here, and The Graduation of Jake Moon. Barbara won more than 40 children’s book awards, including several Children’s Choice Awards.
Barbara Park was born in Mount Holly, New Jersey, on April 21, 1947, and spent most of her adult life in Arizona. There she, with her husband, Richard, raised her two sons and spent time with her two young grandsons. Park died on November 15, 2013, after fighting ovarian cancer heroically for seven and a half years.
Photo credit: Photo © Pamela Tidswell 2007