BooksOpinion

Banned Books Week: In Defense of “Junie B. Jones”

Madison Gallup ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

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Many children grew up with Junie B. Jones. She became one of their closest friends, she was someone they could turn to when they had a bad day or had trouble falling asleep. She was a confident female role model- a young girl who was unafraid to speak her mind and did not get constantly called “bossy” for doing so. Her jokes and commentary about the world can make kids laugh out loud, even on their third or fourth time reading the same book.

Junie B. was their personal comedian and buddy—always there when they needed her to be- but she was decidedly not their English teacher or their behavioral role model. She didn’t encourage them to speak back to adults and pull people’s hair. They saw the consequences she faced for doing such things, and as she learned right from wrong, they should have too. When Junie B. spoke in an incorrect manner, they should have known that it was because she was only a kindergartner and did not know any better. They did not decide to start speaking the way Junie B. did just because they enjoyed reading what she had to say.

Hopefully they knew to learn their grammatical habits from teachers in school and not from a fictional kindergarten. That is not to say that some of these children may not have picked up some of Junie B.’s grammatical errors. Perhaps they accidentally said “I runned over to my friend” or “nobody was beautifuller than my mom” because Junie B. spoke this way. Apparently it was this concern—in addition to a worry that their children may develop some behavior issues—that caused adults to challenge Barbara Parks’ books often enough to land it at #71 on the Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009 list (ala.org).

What these adults do not seem to be considering is what their child would lose by never being exposed to the spunky kindergartner’s tales. So a child’s grammar rocks, but does she know how to speak her mind? Did she ever get the chance to absorb some of the confidence that Junie B. regularly exudes because she knows that what she has to say is valuable. What about “That Meanie Jim?” Did he ever get the chance to show her that a book should not be judged by its cover? What of the “yucky blucky fruitcake?” Was it ever able to teach her to see the glass half full and make the best of a bad situation?

Maybe the child of that censoring parent would have picked these lessons up somewhere else (somewhere far less amusing and endearing). Perhaps the bigger loss is never being exposed to Junie B. Jones herself. The child would have one less female protagonist in his life, something invaluable because of how few and far between they are.

Characters like Junie B., Ramona Quimby, and Judy Moody filled their childhood with strong female literary role models. It was so important to have those female characters at a time in life when so many clubs and activities are gender specific, and bold male characters are everywhere. When looking over the list of titles most often challenged for Banned Books Week, it was shocking to discover the beloved Junie B Jones residing there. To ban Junie B. is to snuff out the voice of a member of an endangered species. There aren’t many strong, confident, and non-sexualized female main characters out there, so it would be a crime to keep young people from discovering such a wonderful one.

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