Barbara Park - Author
Barbara Park, author of the Junie B. Jones series, provides answers to kids' questions.
Q: Is Junie B. based on a real person — you when you were a little girl? Did you act and talk like Junie B.? Do you still feel like Junie B. sometimes? Do her situations come from your own life?
A: Junie isn’t based on a real person, although I must admit that she and I do share a few of the same “personality traits.” When I was in first grade, I got sent to the principal for talking. Even now, I don’t have much trouble getting into Junie B.’s 5-year-old frame of mind. But most of her situations are fictional.
Q: How has Junie B. changed as the series progresses?
A: Although her progress has been a little slow, I really do think that by the end of kindergarten she is trying to control herself better in class. Also, in Junie B. Jones Is a Graduation Girl, she happily informs the principal that her grammar has improved a bit!
Q: I laugh really hard when I read about Junie B., especially when my mom and I read them out loud together. Do you laugh out loud when you're writing the books?
A: Yes. As odd as it sounds, sometimes the things that come out of her mouth surprise even me.
Q: Do you think about the kids who read your books when you're writing them?
A: To be honest, when I’m writing a book, I concentrate almost entirely on the story and the characters. I try to please myself with my writing. If I’m happy with my work, I’m hopeful that my readers will be happy with it, too.
Q: Do you know what the characters are going to do before you write, or do you just write the story and see what they do?
A: It’s a little of both, actually. Before I begin I have a loose idea of what’s going to happen in the book. But as the story develops, lots of things happen that I never could have anticipated.
Q: How do you know how young children think? Do you remember your own childhood and your feelings very well, or are you just in tune with kids today (your own or others)?
A: I’ve always maintained that adults and kids aren’t all that different. I still have a lot of the same feelings and frustrations that I had as a kid. For some of us “grownups,” the hardest thing about being an adult is the pressure of always having to act like one.
Q: Did you intend for Junie to appeal to both boys and girls? Were you surprised that both boys and girls liked Junie? Why do you think she is liked?
A: From the time I started writing, I’ve always assumed that if I make my characters amusing enough, boys and girls will like them equally well. Junie B. goes through situations that are common to kids in general, so everyone can identify with her pretty easily. I also think kids like her because she makes mistakes and isn’t perfect.
Q: You always write that Junie B. Jones gets into trouble. Why?
A: I’ve never met a kid who didn’t get into trouble occasionally. If Junie B. went through each day being perfect, there wouldn’t be much of a story to tell.
Q: Have you ever written a story when Junie B. did something really naughty or just too silly? Did you change the story and make it better or more believable?
A: I’m constantly changing the story to try and make it better. Sometimes, as I read over what I have written, I have to “tame” Junie B.’s behavior a bit. Other times I end up making her even sillier.
Q: Junie B. acts really silly and makes up funny words. Do you think her parents think she's funny or do they just ignore her silliness?
A: Like most parents, Junie B.’s parents often have to correct her behavior. But (yay!) there are also occasions when they are totally amused by her.
Q: My favorite book is Junie B. Jones and the Stupid, Smelly Bus. What's yours?
A: I don’t know if I have an absolute favorite. I liked discovering that Meanie Jim had a crush on Junie B. in Mushy Gushy Valentine. And I also had a good time writing Junie B. Jones Is (Almost) a Flower Girl. In that story, I loved the fact that — although she tried her very best — she was simply unable to act like a grown-up lady. Even now, I have the same problem.