Thursday, November 08, 2007

Junie B. Jones Gives Me The Willies

Ethan is nuts for Junie B. Jones. Every night, he is doubled over with belly laughs as I read three or four chapters from one of the books in the series. She's a feisty Kindergarten girl who spouts lots of wise cracks and often finds herself in some sort of kid-style jam. Apparently, the books are wildly popular and children follow her adventures throughout grammar school, starting in Kindergarten.

But I'm here to confess that I cannot stand Junie B. Jones. For starters, the child constantly uses incorrect, cutesy grammar. Junie B., as she is referred to in the series, is often mildly disrespectful and just plain obnoxious. The author, Barbara Park, definitely knows how to access her readers' funny bones and some of Junie B.'s schemes are kind of amusing even to me. But I don't want Ethan to ever think it's OK to call another child a crybaby or casually address his grandmother by her first name or scream in class to get attention. And the fact that Junie B. can never use an adverb with the suffix "ly" is just maddening to me. I constantly find myself stopping midsentence to remind Ethan that Junie's misuse of the past tense is incorrect or that she has mispronounced one word or another (beautifulest is not a word). Or, most importantly, that she should never call children names when she gets upset. That stuff is not cute and it's certainly not funny.

One more thing...The illustrations are kind of creepy. The artist's rendering of children is just weird--with bizarre features and expressions. Kind of like what you would see in an an old-style, newspaper comic strip. The whole thing just has a dated, 70's look and feel. Kind of like Andy Capp meets Holly Hobby. Scary.

I think Ethan "gets" the finer point here and that is that Junie B. is funny because she's spunky and that a lot of her antics are about getting laughs and not about role modeling. What's more, I think there is value in not over sanitizing every single one of Ethan's experiences. Life, even from a Kindergarten point-of-view, is not perfect and squeaky. So, because Ethan enjoys the books so much, I'll keep reading them to him (with appropriate editing)--at least for now.

In the meantime, I often read Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans to Ethan and McKenna. When I've had my fill of Junie B., Madeline restores my faith in children's literature. Gentle, poetic, lovely, and subtle. Written word that stands the test of time and captures the imagination all the while.

Not at all like Junie B. Jones.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Timmy discovered a new book that I love reading to him. It is called Skippy-Jon Jones about a Siamese cat with one heck of an imagination. I think it is very funny. If you have not read this one, I suggest you pick it up. It's a good laugh.