Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Barbara Park, Junie B. Jones author, dead at 66
First Published Nov 17 2013 10:20 am • Last Updated Nov 17 2013 01:38 pm

New York • Barbara Park, a former class clown who channeled her irreverence into the million-selling mishaps of grade schooler Junie B. Jones, has died. She was 66.

Park died Friday after a long battle with ovarian cancer, according to a statement released Sunday by Random House Books for Young Readers. She was a longtime resident of Scottsdale, Ariz., where she lived with her husband, Richard, and raised two sons.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Starting in 1992, Park wrote more than 30 illustrated chapter books about the smart-mouthed girl with an ungrammatical opinion of everybody — her parents, her teachers, her friends and her classmate and enemy for life, May, who is so mean she won’t even acknowledge Junie’s middle initial (which stands for Beatrice: "Only I don’t like Beatrice. I just like B and that’s all," Junie warned).

The books’ titles alone were windows into Junie’s slangy mind: "Junie B. Jones and Her Big Fat Mouth," "Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus," "Junie B. Jones and That Meanie Jim’s Birthday." Junie was stuck in kindergarten for years before Park advanced her to the next class, starting with Book 18 and "Junie B., First Grader (at last!)."

"I don’t have a problem being 6 years old in my head," Park once explained during an interview with barnesandnoble.com. "It’s almost embarrassing; if I’m talking to librarians or teachers who know my books and they say, ‘How do you do this?’ It’s not a stretch.

"I find that when I’m struggling to think of how a 6-year-old would feel about something, I just have to go right down to the common denominator, find the simplest way that you can look at an object or a problem, and not muck it up with all of the stuff that adults do and over-analyze," she said.

Park’s books sold more than 55 million copies just in North America, according to Random House, and the series was adapted into a popular musical theater production. Junie B. inspired much laughter among families, and a few frowns. Parents and educators occasionally objected to Jones’ personalized language and cheeky ways, worrying that she was a bad influence on her fans. The series sometimes appeared on the American Library Association’s list of "challenged" books.

Born Barbara Tidswell in Mount Holly, N.J., Park remembered herself as a troublemaker who knew well the path to the principal’s office. She had actually planned to become a teacher, majoring in education at the University of Alabama, but a year of being a student teacher for 7th graders convinced her that any further classroom experiences should be confined to paper.

Park would cite "The Catcher in the Rye" as an early literary influence and also credited the books of Judy Blume with inspiring her to write for children, and to make the stories funny. On Sunday, Blume praised Park for getting kids to read and recalled that some would confuse her with the title character of Park’s books.

"I’m Judy B. and lot of kids just assumed I was Junie B. Jones and had written the books," Blume told The Associated Press. "I’d always say, ‘I didn’t write them, but I wish I had.’"


story continues below
story continues below

Besides the "Junie B. Jones" series, Park also wrote picture books, novels for middle school students and even a Hallmark greeting card, an "insulting" birthday message about getting old. She was a frequent winner of the Children’s Choice Award who never did bother to write a novel for adults.

"I’m not actually sure I’m grown-up enough for grown-up books," she once explained.

Park helped found a charitable organization, Sisters in Survival, to raise money women with ovarian cancer. Random House said contributions can be made to www.sistersinsurvival.org .



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.