Junie B. Jones, Sophie Rae, and the Naughty Easter Bunny

junieb2I texted Ms. X this afternoon.

“Is there an Easter Junie B.?”

She shot back, “Yes. Junie B. First Grader Dumb Bunny!”

 Then she called to say she’d seen it at Target. I didn’t find it there, but they had it at Barnes and Noble. As I was checking out, the young saleswoman commented on my other purchase, “A Birthday for Frances.”

“Is that the one with the blue and white tea set?” she asked.

“Oh no, that’s `A Bargain for Frances,'” I replied automatically.

Frances is my all-time favorite, a 1960s (or so) era hedgehog (whoops! badger!) with a mom and a dad and a little brother, and if you’ve never read Russell Hoban’s books about her, you must run out and get them immediately, regardless of the ages of your kids or whether you have kids at all. I’m quite sure I’ve already waxed dreamily here about “Bread and Jam for Frances,” which is about school lunch.

Frances is most definitely a badger in a party hat. Love her love her love her.

I love Junie B., too, but I have to admit that the relationship’s more complicated. “Yeah,” the saleswoman said after we’d shared our mutual affection for Frances, her voice dropping to a stage whisper. “Her grammar’s really bad.”

It is. A lot of people don’t like the Junie B. Jones chapter books because the main character’s a bit of a brat, but what drives me nuts about her is definitely her grammar. She uses “ain’t” — and worse.

I’d tell you the rules she breaks, but here’s a true confession: I’m a newspaper editor who spends her days (and nights) fixing grammatical errors, but I can’t tell you the rules my writers are breaking.

That’s an embarrassing admission. I know I’m supposed to be able to identify a dangling participle and diagram a sentence, but to be honest, I wasn’t paying attention that month in seventh grade English. Thanks to my maternal grandmother’s good word sense and the desire to pick a paragraph clean the way a mama monkey picks nits off her babies, I can make your copy look pretty good.

I’m pretty sure that’s my one and only marketable skill, by the way. And I’m not going to tell you here that I never make mistakes — grammatical or otherwise — in this blog and elsewhere. But I don’t use crappy English on purpose, particularly not around young children, and that’s exactly my problem with Junie B.

She talks like a kindergartener. Or so I’m told.

Ms. X. adores Junie B. As soon as the spring semester starts, she stops reading picture books to her class each day after lunch and starts reading Junie B. Jones books.

Annabelle fell hard for Junie B. two years ago in Ms. X’s kindergarten. I’d never heard of her. (As I’ve learned, there are now more than two dozen in the Junie B. series — they’re wildly successful. The first was published in 1992. Thanks, Wikipedia!)

I did some asking around and the consensus among smart kid experts was, “Not to worry. The kids get that it’s a character speaking. The most important thing is that they love Junie B. and they love her books and this will instill a lifelong love of reading.”

(I wanted to ask the author, Barbara Park, about it, too. Turns out she lives here in metropolitan Phoenix, and I thought she’d make a good profile subject for my paper. Also turns out she’s a recluse. I stalked her at a rare public appearance and left her a package with a heartfelt letter and examples of my work, but I never heard back. Darn. I love recluses almost as much as I love hoarders. But that’s a different blog post.)

Annabelle already loved books, but I figured another reason to love them wouldn’t hurt, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard her say “ain’t,” so no harm done. When I read the books aloud to her, I do correct the grammar as I go. I can’t help myself. But she’s been reading them on her own for years, now.

So I didn’t think much of it when, the first week after Christmas vacation, Sophie came home and dug around in Annabelle’s room and emerged with a pile of Junie B. books. Now it’s early April and she’s downright obsessed. She can’t read the books, per se, but she carries them around and turns the pages (licking her finger first, just like Ms. X) and tells stories. She won’t get in the car without one. It’s sweet.

And harmless, right? Right?

It wasn’t til I was walking out of Barnes and Noble with my Easter-themed Junie B. Jones and thinking how clever I was to come up with such a cute idea for Sophie’s basket that it suddenly dawned on me.

Sophie’s not like Annabelle. She’s speaking wonderfully, amazing all her therapists and doing so well for a kid with Down syndrome, but the truth is that her grammar is terrible. In fact, in a list of goals the speech therapist sent me last week, the two main focuses are grammar and learning how to chew gum. (So the Easter bunny’s going to leave some Orbit, too.)

Now I don’t know what to do. I guess I better email the speech therapist and ask her if Sophie’s allowed Junie B. I’m already feeling sorry for myself because we spent a hunk of the girls’ day off yesterday picking up Sophie’s new orthotics. Despite promises from the physical therapist, the new ones look a lot like the old ones and the guy who fitted her for them told me to make sure to get her some sturdy new shoes to wear with them.

So Sophie will be wearing dorky sneakers and reading straight-laced kid fiction. It’s not fair.

The Easter Bunny just might have to be a little naughty.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “Junie B. Jones, Sophie Rae, and the Naughty Easter Bunny

  1. I think she is more into emulating her sis than Junie B! Long before my daughter learned to read she loved carrying all manner of books around. She just loves Hannah Montana and look at her manners! Yikes. Does she really have to wear “ugly” sneaks? Mine wears New Balance sneakers because of her heel cups and because school for me, here in the country, is not about fashion but about hard work and play. I love my sneaks. She also has some shoes that have enough of a heel depth to allow for the heel cups. Land’s End has some water shoes that look like they might work too!

  2. Amy, I knew right away when we met we’d be friends and this post just reinforces it…not for the Junie B. stuff (I’ll admit, I’m not really a Junie fan) but for FRANCES!

    I LOVE Frances.

    When my oldest was young, my mom gave him A Bargain for Frances and it was like the heavens parted and lightning came down from the sky and zapped me. HOW could I have forgotten Frances from when I was young? How? I remembered the delicate wonderful blue china cups. I remembered not liking Thelma for her sneakiness. I remembered my joy that Frances was so smart and figured out how to (nicely) get her tea set back.

    Oh, I love her.

    That is all I have to say. Happy Easter. 🙂

    PS Good luck with the gum. Watch her – my middle one is fond of making “gum necklaces” which are hard to remove.

  3. My 7 year old LOVES those Junie B. books. At least she’s reading instead of watching TV!!

  4. Leah

    I had a Bread and Jam for Frances recording when I was little and I still read it with the voice inflection from the record I had. I loved it.

  5. Jen

    I haven’t read any of the Junie books, but OMG do I love Frances. I wanted to BE her when I was little. Remember the scene in A Baby Sister for Frances when she runs away to the dining room table with her backpack full of prunes and chocolate sandwich cookies? I wanted to do that so badly. Alas, my mom never bought prunes.

    And you are so right about the lunches in Bread and Jam…I get hungry every time we read that one.

    FYI…found you through Maya.

  6. Rosalie

    You must get Junie B booka on CD (Tempe Library has them)…it’s how I distracted Noah from getting carsick for two years in preschool. Something less offensive about the incorrect grammar when it’s spoken.

  7. elewinnek

    I agree with Sari; Frances is wonderful. My mother read those books to me, and my mother also once embarrassed me by writing a letter to Children’s Television Workshop to complain about Cookie Monster’s grammar. “Me want cookies,” indeed. I don’t think Cookie Monster says that anymore. He’s been cleaned up, like the rest of Sesame Street, and now I think he longs for carrots as well as cookies — but the old CookieM didn’t do much harm, did he?

    When I was six or seven, I resisted learning to read, so the school had me tested for retardation. One of my mother’s friends told her, “Don’t worry, no one can grow up in your house without reading.” That house was so filled with books and readers that it was bound to seep in to me, and it did. By a similar logic, I think no one could grow up in my mother’s house without good grammar. And I am pretty sure that the same thing is true of your house — but then again, DS does twist things up.

    Still, I think Junie B. sounds like a contemporary Cookie Monster who will be balanced out by the many counter-examples in Sophie’s life. I’d be more concerned with books that demonstrate greed or meanness or sneakiness than books that simply say ain’t.

  8. Probably not a real shocker here, but I love the Frances books. I think they might be my favorite kid series. Birthday and Bread and Jam are the best. I can’t wait to share them with my kids. They don’t have a choice!
    I remember as a kid not even noticing they were badgers. I thought Frances was a human.

  9. Mary

    Hi, I just came across your blog and love it. I also have a 5 year old daughter with DS. I would read the books to Sophie just the way you did for your older daughter, correcting the grammar as you go. As for the shoes with the orthotics, I would buy a pair of converse all star high tops to go over the top–our orthotics have enough support that our pt said the shoes themselves don’t really matter. We get so many comments about the high tops that everyone thinks my Anna is the coolest kid ever. You can get toddler sizes at zappos.com

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