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What Do You Think of Junie B. Jones?
There's a debate going on over at Crunchy Conservative about the Junie B. Jones books.

For those of you who have never heard of Junie, she began as a kindergartner with bad grammar, a tendency to mischief, and hilariously funny. She is not in any way a child that you would want your own children to emulate. She's bossy, quick to bully, and rude. But she does it such a charming way that you find yourselves laughing.

The books are chapter books, and for kids who are finally able to read on their own, they're often used as first readers. Junie has graduated from kindergarten all the way to grade 2 by now, I think, though we only read the kindergarten ones and a few of the grade 1 ones before my own girls grew out of them.

Over at Crunchy Cons, they're wondering whether these books are good for kids or not. I think this comment sums up my feelings:

The first time I read a Junia B. Jones book to my daughter, I didn't really like it. The grammar was bad, so I was always correcting it. She seemed to be setting a bad example, etc... In fact, I don't think we even finished it and I swore we would NEVER read those books. Similar to the quoted author's experience.

However, I absolutely LOVE the books now. My daughter's teacher read them to her in kindergarten and she had 1st grader friends who liked to read them, so I tried again. I read them out loud to my daughter, who is entering the first grade, and just enjoy acting out the stories. You can do a lot with voice inflection. They are so entertaining. My daughter knows what is appropriate behavior, so we have had some discussions about how Junia could act better. I find myself laughing out loud at her antics. It's not so different from Beverly Cleary's Ramona character (those beloved books I read as a child). My daughter loves reading them on her own as well, which I'm only too happy to encourage since I want her to to have a love for reading.
So, I encourage parents of young children to read 2-3 of the Junia books before giving up on them completely. I now find them simply delightful.

Now please remember, I am really picky about what my kids read. I don't let them read junk. But I didn't really have a problem with these ones, though many of my friends did.

I never found that my girls copied the grammar or the behaviour. They read the books to find what Junie did wrong. And I certainly didn't notice any uptick in rudeness after they read the books. They just loved reading.

I don't normally let my kids read fluff, but they were just starting out. And they moved from Junie to Ramona. The Ramona books are much longer, and the character is much better. She's not exactly rude, she's just misunderstood, and it makes her act out. But they're lovely books. I read them as a child and loved them, and now my kids love them, too.

But it is tough to figure out what to let your kids read. Do the books have to reflect every one of your values? Do they have to have proper behaviour? I figure as long as they have a world view that I approve of, it's generally okay. For instance, in the Junie B. Jones books, when she does something wrong she is punished and she's told she's wrong. There's not an effort to let her get away with things.

I don't let my kids read Harry Potter because I think the drive for magic that can be used to give you power over people is not a healthy thing, and can lead to some unhealthy imaginations and dabblings. But now that my oldest daughter is almost 14, I would let her. I just think a certain maturity is necessary.

The main thing we have stayed away from is The Baby-Sitters Club, or all the pre-teen romance books which have no redeeming literary value. There are enough good books out there that we haven't had to resort to that. My 11-year-old is now working her way through both Noel Streatfield's Ballet Shoes and Pride and Prejudice. My 14-year-old is addicted to Beverly Lewis.

So what do you think? Is Junie okay or not? Or does it depend on your child?

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At 10:18 AM , Blogger Crazy Lady Cheryl said…

I think they're cute books. My girls never copied any of the language, behavior, etc. Instead, it opened up wonderful teachable moments.

Junie reminds me a bit of of Amelia Bedelia. Things don't always work out, but the characters are lovable and you find yourself rooting for things to work out for them, for them to learn their lesson and move on. And for Amelia's trademark lemon meringue pie.


At 10:23 AM , Blogger Terry, Ornament of His Grace said…

My take on Junie B. Jones is the same as yours. My older girls read them and I am sure I'll let the younger ones coming along read them as well.

My 14 year old just started reading the first book in the Left Behind series. Not the one written for teens- the original. She is enjoying it. One of my 13 year olds is reading a very popular novel series among the kids right now, the latest title is The Battle of the Labyrinth. The values don't mirror ours exactly, and there is a touch of mystical stuff (tsk, tsk, I know) but I feel at this age we've laid a foudation and they can handle reading books that aren't overtly Christian. Good triumphs over evil and consequences are meted out in proportion to the wrong done and I think that matters most. I'm just happy they like to read. Too many kids see it as drudgery.


At 6:20 PM , Blogger Tracey said…

I agree with you about the BABY SITTERS CLUB! It's just crap....I do like Harry Potter, but you're right it does require some maturity to understand it on a "reality" level.


At 6:27 PM , Blogger pedalpower said…

I think they are cute too. I learned of them when my little niece brought one with her.

I don't think all the characters in books have to act as we would/should. I think it's important to see what happens when you don't act as you should. I loved Ramona. I loved Laura Ingalls and Anne of Green Gables...they sometimes struggled with attitude too. I think they were some of my favorites because they weren't perfect...and of course neither was/am I!


At 9:30 PM , Blogger Chatty Kelly said…

Hi, I'm visiting from Rebecca's Place. My daughter is now entering 4th, but she loved those books too. My husband thought they were horrible, but she never copied them in any way, and continues to have a love of reading.


At 11:17 PM , Blogger Kathy said…

I have never heard of Junie B. Jones, though I must admit that I do like books with characters that get it wrong sometimes - like Jo in Little Women. I also loved the "Naughtiest Girl" books by Enid Blyton. hehe

I just wanted to say a quick bit about Harry Potter. My husband read the first book when he was 17. It was the first fantasy book he ever read (he grew up in a fairly strong Christian home), but it began an addiction to fantasy books that he has only just begun to get free of (8 years later). I have read the whole Harry Potter series, and though I enjoyed it I am very wary of it. I do sometimes speak up in defence of it, but that is becoming less and less. The books celebrate witchcraft and there is some stuff in them that is really wrong and ungodly (mostly in the later books). I used to say that I would probably let my kids read them when they were older, but I am not so sure when I consider how they acted as a doorway into other fantasy books for my husband. Compared to other fantasy books that are out there, Harry Potter is nothing at all, but it is not as innocent as some people like to think it is.


At 5:11 PM , Blogger Barb, sfo said…

Junie B. is no different from Pippi Longstocking. I loved the Pippi books as a child, and my children thoroughly enjoy Junie B. today. Now that my youngest is a first-grader, and reading, his big sister has handed down all her Junie B. books to him. He's excited about reading them.
Junie B. is really a well-done series--I love her "voice" and she really does go through all those typical little-kid struggles!

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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