An Interview with "Junie B. Jones" Author Barbara Park

SCR Staff
 | Jan 26, 2018

Barbara Park

Arizona’s First Literary Landmark Honors Barbara Park and Junie B. Jones

Barbara Park Bench

​Barbara Park landmark bench.

In May 2017, the first Literary Landmark in Arizona was presented in honor of the late Junie B. Jones author Barbara Park, in partnership with the Arizona Center for the Book at Arizona State Library and Random House Children’s Books. The landmark designation was Cherokee Elementary School in Paradise Valley, Ariz., which served as the inspiration for Junie B. Jones. Park wrote Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus (Random House Children’s Books), the first book in the bestselling series, after she found a young Cherokee student walking home after he missed the school bus. “The Stupid Smelly Bus was the first in the wildly popular, bestselling Junie B. Jones series, which has kept millions of children and their grownups laughing—and reading—for decades and is beloved by children all over the globe,” the plaque reads. The Literary Landmark program is administered by United for Libraries. More than 150 Literary Landmarks across the United States have been dedicated since the program began in 1986.

In this excerpt from a 2005 interview published in Time Magazine, Andrea Sachs (“Galley Girl”) and author Barbara Park discuss Junie B. Jones’ vocabulary, the 30-book series’ use of humor and seeing the world through the eyes of a five-year-old. 

Galley GirlYou're known for your distinctive word use in these books. How would you describe your writing style?

Barbara Park: What I try really hard to do is be five in my head, to just absolutely go to this very innocent level. I like to think that Junie B. looks at the world—and this isn’t a negative comment on her—from the lowest common denominator. It’s not all gray to her; it’s all black and white. I think the five- and six-year-old mind-set is very much like that. You just know things very clearly, that as you grow up, get murky. I try to write her in really simplistic, very innocent terms. In that regard, she gets in trouble. She doesn’t have a great command of the language yet; she doesn’t speak the Queen’s English, which I think would be ridiculous for a five-year-old. I just have fun. I try to make myself laugh.

GG: What age group is reading these books?

BP: A lot of kindergarten kids can read the books, because their parents have started reading to them at home at such early ages. But I would say that second graders and third graders are the biggest fans, and of course first, because she is in first grade now.

GG: Are we talking, as usual, about mainly girls?

BP: I would say two-thirds. I would say about one-third boys are usually in the [bookstore] lines, which is kind of cool. But I think part of it is because she's not a girlie-girl. She could be Johnnie B. Jones and probably the stories wouldn’t change very much.

GG: Do you have internal rules as to what you won’t discuss in these books?

BP: No. I think I just monitor as it goes. One thing I have never liked—I’ve never thought it was funny to do bathroom humor, which tends to make little kids laugh a lot. To me, it’s too easy of a joke.

GG: Were you like Junie B. as a child?

BP: I wasn’t that over-the-top, but I got sent to the principal in first grade for talking. And my father was for a long time the president of the Board of Education. That was always a hard note to bring home.

Writer Barbara Park lived in Arizona for nearly 30 years and died in 2013 following a long battle with cancer.

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