Books by Barbara Park

Released: Aug. 28, 2012

"Junie B. still brings a smile, but sometimes it's an uncomfortable one. (Fiction. 5-8)"
It's bound to be a special Thanksgiving feast when Junie B. and her classmates are celebrating. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 22, 2008

"Here" is the womb, from which a boisterous baby speaks with all the subtlety of its sister-under-the-skin, Junie B. In Park's rhyming couplets, the obstreperous babe complains, "I'm all in a heap here. My feet are asleep here. I'm flat out of space. I've got knees in my face." And so on. As the infant anticipates entry into the world, the tone modulates to an acknowledgement that it won't be easy on either party, but that the rewards will be great, when the time is right. Garofoli does her best with the limited options presented by an enwombed fetus, depicting a vigorous pink baby with a giant, round head as it both struggles to expand the confines of its current environment and imagines its upcoming adventures. Curiously enough, for a book whose only conceivable child audience is the older-sibling-to-be crowd, no such child is present, either in text or illustrations. The end result is a cheery, sassy offering whose colossal promotion will ensure big sales to expectant parents as novelty baby-shower gifts. But it's not a children's book. (Picture book. Adult)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 2002

"Good news, people!" Junie B. has lost her first tooth and she is the first person in Room One to reach this milestone. Is Junie B. excited? Well, yes and no. First, she is excited about sharing the news, and the bloodstained spit cup, with her classmates. But, she is concerned that she will end up like Sheldon's toothless Uncle Lou. Then, she imagines that she will look so different that no one at school will recognize her. And there is the little matter of the Tooth Fairy. See, Junie B. knows "stuff about the fairy, that's why." The "truth" is perfectly clear to her and seems so logical coming out of her mouth: the Tooth Fairy is really a Tooth Witch who collects teeth to EAT. Her mother challenges Junie B.'s emphatic explanation of the tiny cheek-pinching Tooth Witch flying on her toothbrush. But Junie B. has no patience for her mother's dense thinking. "I rolled my eyes way up to the ceiling. 'Cause sometimes I have to explain everything to that woman." Sassy and perceptive Junie B. is growing up, and Park's first-person narrative improves as her character ages. Junie B. has been listening to adults and loves to add grown-up words and colloquialisms to her speech. The reader is treated to words like "fascinating, reaction, pleasure, occasional, festivities and ‘that's another can of worms." Junie B.'s swarms of young fans will continue to delight in her unique take on the world and her exasperation with the well-meaning adults in her life. A hilarious, first-rate read-aloud for the first-grade classroom. (Fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
BOSS OF LUNCH by Barbara Park
Released: May 28, 2002

Junie is adjusting to the new world of first grade, where she is learning to follow rules and settle down—at least a little bit. She has a new lunchbox and she just cannot keep her hands off of it. Mr. Scary, her teacher, has exhorted her to leave it alone until lunchtime, even if she is extolling the virtues of a homemade lunch. " 'Cause brought lunches are made special by our very own mothers!" May, the prissy, perfect girl who loves to annoy Junie is more than happy to tattle on her or to point out the virtues of the cafeteria lunch. "All school lunches have to be delicious and nutritious. It's a rule." Junie is left with her sandwich while the children all choose a cafeteria hoagie. Well, rules are made to be broken and no one can break them quite like Junie B. She ends up as a lunch helper, fancying herself as being in charge of the kitchen, despite her mother's gentle admonition: "A helper is not the boss." Though she loves her job as the napkin arranger and sink sponger, she is cut down to size when she is asked to greet the older kids. Park's particular gift is her ability to have Junie, the narrator, add interesting vocabulary and phrases to her speech. She really seems older than the Junie in the kindergarten books, more real, and more sympathetic. Who couldn't relate to the little girl who wants to help but somehow manages to call the lunch "Tuna Noodle Stinkle" and compounds the mistake by screeching it at the top of her lungs? Hooray for Junie and hooray for the grown-ups in her life who accept her, loud mouth and all. (Fiction. 7-10)Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 6, 2001

Starting first grade proves to be a challenge for Junie B. Jones, Park's enduring, irrepressible heroine. Junie B. is having a tough time. Not only is she nervous about starting first grade, but on her very first day of school, Lucille, Junie B.'s best friend from kindergarten, is distinctly aloof. Lucille coolly informs Junie B. that they have "already been best friends" and that now, in the name of fairness, "it's time for Camille and Chenille to get a turn." Then Grace, who sat next to Junie B. on the bus every day last year, throws her over for new friend Bobbi Jean Piper, which causes Junie B. to announce that her "bestest friends are dropping like flies." Throw in "Blabber-lips May" the obnoxious tattletale in the next seat, and it looks to Junie B. like "first grade is a flop." But Junie B.'s real problem is that she can't see the blackboard. Luckily, her on-the-ball teacher diagnoses her problem right away, sending her to the school nurse for an eye exam. With good-natured wit, Parks demystifies the process of getting glasses, also paying attention to the embarrassment and self-consciousness kids often feel when they show up at school with a new pair of specs. Although not the most amusing book in the series, fans will be happy to know that despite Junie B.'s ascent to the rigors of first grade, Park's feisty, funny heroine retains her trademark use of language, mirthful malapropisms, and essential larger-than-life personality. (Fiction. 6-9)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

Jake Moon's grandfather Skelly used to be the emotional fixer in Jake's household, the one who soothed his hurts and helped him through hard times. But when Jake is in third grade, Skelly begins forgetting things and by the time Jake is ready to graduate from eighth grade Skelly's Alzheimer's has progressed to the point where he is barely aware of his surroundings. Jake learns from Skelly's doctor that Alzheimer's disease has three stages, "each . . . worse than the one before it," which Jake thinks of as "(1) sad, (2) sadder, and (3) the saddest thing you've ever seen." The book chronicles not only Skelly's deterioration, but also the effect it has on Jake and his relationships with other family members and friends. As Skelly's condition worsens, their roles reverse and Jake finds himself caring for the man who once cared for him. That, coupled with the fact that his grandfather has become a tremendous embarrassment—at a sleepover, Skelly shows up in Jake's room without any pants or underpants, for example—causes Jake to disengage from friends and extracurricular activities. Park's convincing first-person narration rings true, and she is particularly adept at rendering Jake's complex emotional journey, which encompasses love, confusion, sadness, anger, embarrassment, shame, and finally acceptance. The book has some funny moments, but it's one of Park's darker, more poignant creations; readers expecting a Skinnybones-type laugh-a-thon will be sadly disappointed. Nonetheless, Park has produced a perceptive book that should prove useful to children who must navigate similar waters. (Fiction. 9-12)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1998

In this lively number from Park (Mick Harte Was Here, 1995, etc.), the Bogeyman goes on an extended rap-rant to set a few things straight regarding his personality and modus operandi. He explains to the little boy whose bed he hides under, whose dark closet he haunts, that he is "stew-spewin', gravel-chewin' mad." A tabloid claims to have photographed him and run a headline: "Evil Bogeyman Bellows Boo." Well, he wants the tyke to know, he never gets photographed, never says boo (it's a baby word), and never bellows ("I rarely raise my voice. I'm a professional, Peppie"). But this Bogeyman lets slip his aversion to smelly sweat socks, and the boy, by unloosing a bundle of them, banishes the Bogeyman across the hall, to a sister's room. This is all just good sheer tomfoolery and jive-talking, with pumped-up wordplay and a gratifying finale. Kroninger's collage illustrations are technically impressive, but aren't as convincing as Park's case for the existence of the Bogeyman. Save this for older picture-book fans; it's creepy enough to give preschoolers bad dreams. (Picture book. 4-9) Read full book review >
Released: April 20, 1995

It's always difficult reading about the death of a child, especially when he's ``one of the neatest kids you'd ever want to meet.'' That's how Phoebe Harte, 13, describes her slightly younger brother Mick, in a poignant story by a writer more associated with making readers laugh (Maxie, Rosie, and Earl—Partners in Grime, 1990, etc.) than cry. Phoebe tells readers right away that Mick has died from a head injury he suffered in a bike accident, but then interweaves the story of his life with the grief she and her parents endure afterward. What emerges is a portrait of an alternately charming and pesky brother, who is missed tremendously by his family, his friends, and his community. Park relieves the tragedy with side-splitting remembrances, all told in the wry, authentic voice of a young teenage girl. Phoebe decides to address her schoolmates at an assembly about the need for bike helmets, a message the author endorses with a personal note. But although the point comes through clearly, the book itself is not didactic. It is finally just a very moving story about a terrific 12-year-old boy. By the end of the book, readers miss him, too. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >
DEAR GOD, HELP!!! LOVE, EARL by Barbara Park
Released: May 3, 1993

Earl brings his skewed self-esteem and scathingly funny lowdown to this continuing saga of three oddball friends—Earl, obsessively honest Rosie Swanson, and Max, master of the coined word (``The guy's pewage, Earl''). Each week, fist-wielding bully Eddie extorts money from timid, overweight Earl, whose impending poverty drives the friends to extremes. Rosie and Max convince Eddie that he has, in a recent attack, actually killed Earl. Posed photos and cemetery shots buoy their case, but it's Earl's mother who nails down the plot with some well-timed (if innocent) remarks. Eddie cries and is told the truth, but a little more extortion is in order: the threesome won't tell about Eddie's tears if he promises to pick Earl and Max first for teams in gym class. With loads of comic moments, Park's book will crack readers up with its morbidly funny plans and guffaw-inducing repartee. (Fiction. 8-10) Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1993

The fractious kindergartener of Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus (p. 993) has a new baby brother her grandma calls ``the cutest little monkey!'' Junie hasn't seen him yet, but she has told the kids in her class that he's ``A REAL, ALIVE, BABY MONKEY,'' and she's taking bids from her ``bestest'' friends for the first look. So far she's got Lucille's locket, Grace's ring, Lucille's red sweater, Grace's hightops, and Lucille's red chair. But when Junie tries to turn in the extra snack tickets that she's also extorted, she finds herself in the principal's office. Kids who like literal- minded Amelia Bedelia's linguistic misadventures will probably enjoy Junie's. Occasional sophisticated words (``confiscate''; ``beauteous'') and Junie's nongrammatical speech may challenge new readers; if so, this may work best as a readaloud for Junie's contemporaries. Illustrations not seen. (Fiction. 6-8) Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 1992

In the ``First Stepping Stone'' series, a genuinely funny, easily read story. Junie didn't like riding the bus to her first day of kindergarten, so when it's time to go home she hides in a supply closet until everyone but the janitor has left. She has a fine time exploring the contents of her teacher's desk, the school library, and the nurse's office—until she has to go to the bathroom and finds it locked. Only when Junie calls 911 to report this emergency is she located by the frantic adults who've been searching for her. Junie's abrupt, ungrammatical narration sounds just like the feisty young lady seen in the b&w drawings, with droopy socks, wispy hair, and spit-shined (literally—she licks them) shoes. Kids may need some persuading to read about a younger child, but they're sure to enjoy the understated humor. (Fiction. 6-9) Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1991

The stars of Maxie, Rosie, and Earl: Partners in Grime (1990) return, as odd a trio as any in middle-grade fiction. Narrator Rosie is running for president of her class; if she can't win, she'll at least take her opponents down with her. With an uncle in law enforcement, Rosie believes it's her duty to inform on wrongdoers: when she's the victim of sabotage by another candidate (cute soccer star Alan Allen), her retaliation is a ``secret'' note to her classmates alerting them to Alan's past—shoplifting as a first grader. Her tale is as bright and funny as they come, especially when plumpish Earl and too-smart Maxie are on the scene as reasonably loyal allies. Rosie loses the election—but somehow, readers will want to cheer her on to further adventures. (Fiction. 8-11) Read full book review >
Released: March 20, 1988

In response to popular demand, Alex Frankovitch is back, fighting the same old classmates with a new weapon: He's going to be a Star. When his satirical letter for the National Kitty Fritters Cat Food Contest earns him a role in a commercial, Alex begins signing autographs, even though no one wants them. But the commercial is disappointing: He plays an embarrassingiy small, inept boy running away with a very large cat; and the fan club he starts consists only of his grandparents, his dog, and a neighborhood 3-year-old. His classmates remain unimpressed—even derisive. Undaunted, Alex tries out for Scrooge in a school play, but he's cast as Tiny Tim. Now slightly daunted, he plans to steal the show—until he's made painfully aware that he may have gone too far. His reactions surprise even himself. Much of the humor here lies in narrator Alex's total self-involvement and lack of awareness of his effect on other people: Paradoxically, this gives the book's closing pages a somber edge. Park risks undercutting her own protagonist, but her gamble pays off with a wiser story; middle graders will continue to ask for more. Read full book review >
Released: March 15, 1987

A boy learns to adapt to his new environment in this realistic story. Howard, 10, is miserable when his family moves from Arizona to Massachusetts in the middle of the school year. His first days in a new school are as bad as he expects—and, worse, the 7-year-old next door, Molly, decides Howard is her new best friend. After some trial and error, Howard extricates himself from Molly's enthusiasm, and makes some friends his own age. The tone of this first-person narrative is rather unpleasant—Howard's complaints and self-pity get stale long before he stops feeling sorry for himself. The plot seems to be constructed simply as a story about moving, and the writing is undistinguished. There are some strong flashes of humor, however, especially in the interchanges between Howard and Molly. The story's voice usually sounds like that of a real 10-year-old; it might serve to remind a reader in the throes of change that things do get better. Read full book review >
SKINNYBONES by Barbara Park
Released: Sept. 1, 1982

This opens with sixth-grader Alex sending off a smart-alec entry to a Kitty Fritters commercial contest, but it soon settles into his problem as the smallest, poorest, most humiliated player in the local Little League—as he puts it, referring to his repeated winning of the "most improved player" award, "the only one to go from stinko to smelly six years in a row." Alex's response to embarrassment is show-off quipping and clowning, and even if you can't accept the motivation—Alex says he goes through all this for the caps, which make him look like a real ballplayer—you're bound to give in to a few laughs at his retorts. Alex's chief bane is T.J. Stoner, whose older brother is a major leaguer and who, himself, is the best Little Leaguer any coach has laid eyes on. Because Alex can't keep from heckling T.J., T.J. delights in challenging Alex to contests, and consistently shows him up. But on the day that T.J. becomes National Little League Champion, Alex shares a bit of the glory—winning the Kitty Fritters contest he had entered as a joke. Whereas T.J. will get into the Guinness Book of World Records, Alex will go on TV. He's already off and dreaming about his future as a comic. It's a neat enough outcome for this sort of easy walk. Read full book review >