Welcome to Paperback Throwback. Each week, I highlight a book from my ever-growing collection of older paperbacks, ‘90s and prior. Come check out everything from Zebra’s line of horror to Scholastic’s preteen Apple Paperbacks, and everything in between— you’ll know them by their stylishly cheesy covers, flashy plots, and cheap prices.
Join me on this stroll down Literary Memory Lane. Stops include Sweet Valley High, Fear Street, and anywhere else mass market paperbacks may be lurking.
For today’s selection, the B stands for Beatrice.
Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus
by Barbara Park
Illustrated by Denise Brunkus
The first day of school can be terrifying for anyone, and kindergartner Junie B. Jones is no exception. The rules are strange. The kids are meanies. And then there’s the bus. After a disastrous morning ride, Junie B. Jones decides she’d rather stay at school than ride it home— and that’s exactly what she does.
Fictional kindergartners don’t get any funnier than Junie B. Jones. Brash, hyper, and steadfast in her own logic, she manages to get herself into frustrating situations while still remaining charming. Here, her mission is to stay in school and not, under any circumstances, ride the bus. Really, who hasn’t fantasized about staying at school after hours?
The word choices and character attitudes in this series have been debated to death. Junie jumbles grammar rules while tossing sassy one-liners peppered with “stupid”, “dumb”, and “hate”. For some, these features mark the series as literary garbage. However, for me, this unapologetic crassness feels refreshingly honest— after all, no child always behaves perfectly. Junie navigates on the extreme end of behavior, with a wink and a nudge to the reader that, yes, she’s over-the-top. Her behavior is funny, but oh, so wrong.
Barbara Park struck gold when she tapped into Junie’s voice, and this first in the series is wacky perfection.