This mini mani Monday is dedicated to author Barbara Park, the creative genius behind the beloved Junie B. Jones children’s series. Park passed away Friday, November 15, at the age of 66, after a long, drawn-out battle with ovarian cancer, according to a statement by her publishers at Random House Books for Young Readers.
Park leaves behind a legacy of over 30 illustrated chapter books about the uncompromisingly independent, smart-mouthed Junie B. Jones. Her slangy six-year-old protagonist was known for her ungrammatical opinion of the world around her, including, but not limited to, her parents, teachers, friends, and sworn life-enemy, May.
Readers marveled at Park’s uncanny ability to enter the mind of a kindergartener, but the writer had a pretty simple method: “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. (An ability that undoubtedly came in handy while she was parenting her two sons, Steven and David.)
Although the books were meant to inspire laughter and fearlessness among young readers, Park occasionally got flack for Junie B.’s “personalized language and cheeky ways,” earning the series a spot on the American Library Associations list of “challenged” books. However, with over 55 million copies sold in the states alone, seven Children’s Choice Awards, and four Parents’ Choice Awards under her belt, there’s no question how most of us felt about the paperbacks.
In an interview with the Associated Press, fellow children’s author Judy Blume (one of Park’s biggest inspirations) praised the author for inspiring kids to read. Blume professed: “I’m Judy B. and lot of kids just assumed I was Junie B. Jones and had written the books. I’d always say, ‘I didn’t write them, but I wish I had.'”
Apart from dedicating herself to Junie B., Park wrote several other picture books and novels for students at the middle-school level. In her elementary school days, the self-proclaimed troublemaker was no stranger to the principal’s office. Ironically, during her college years, Park originally planned on becoming a teacher, before a year working with a class of seventh graders convinced her that her true worth to children lay in the written word. And the rest is history.
During tonight’s mother-daughter salon session, let your little sparkplug pick out whatever manicure design her fiery little heart desires. Get some inspiration from the slideshow or create your own, in true Junie B. fashion. As the polish dries, read her your favorite title from the series, whether it’s Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, Junie B. Jones and That Meanie Jim’s Birthday, or one of the multitudes of others.
And if you’re looking to give to a charity this holiday season, consider donating to Sisters in Survival, an organization Park helped found to raise money and provide support for ovarian cancer patients.