'Junie B., First Grader:
Boo...and I Mean It!'
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[OCT. 13, 2004]
B., First Grader: Boo…and I Mean It!" by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise
Brunkus, Random House, 2004, 86 pages, ages 6-9 years
Review by Louella Moreland
"Junie B." books are immensely
popular with the children who want easy-to-read chapter books. They
are beyond the beginning reader stages, yet with their easy
vocabulary and larger font they fall into a category of advanced
easy readers. More importantly, they are filled with the antics and
situations of a family with which most young readers can identify.
In Ms. Park's latest book about our
favorite first-grader, Junie B. is facing the upcoming Halloween
trick-or-treating tradition. As those who follow the series know,
this is going to be a challenge for Junie B., who is afraid of a
variety of situations (including clowns)!
Last year, a boy named Paulie Allen
Puffer told Junie B. five scary secrets about Halloween that she was
not allowed to tell anyone for fear that a witch would turn her head
into a wart. As readers we learn what those five scary things are
because Junie B. shares them with us through her journal. (She had
heard on the Home Shopping Network that writing about problems in a
journal made you feel better.) She also has lengthy conversations
with her stuffed elephant, Philip Johnny Bob, who acts as her
With ideas of Little Bo Peep in
mind, her mother has planned a trip to the costume store the day
before Halloween. Since Junie B. seems unable to get out of going
trick-or-treating, she comes up with a plan to dress as a character
that is even scarier (in her mind at least) than the witches and
monsters she is afraid of meeting on Halloween.
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Many children of this age group are
afraid of Halloween and yet have reached a point, as has Junie B.,
of not wanting to be called a "baby" by their peers. This story may
help them explore the situation in a humorous, nonthreatening way,
letting them know they are not alone in their fears. For parents who
may suspect their child harbors a fear of the celebration, the book
would also be a great icebreaker to read aloud.
Denise Brunkus' illustrations add
both charm and the needed visual clues for advancing reader
comprehension. My personal favorite is the dual-page spread of Junie
B. peeking out from under her sweatshirt-covered head while the arm
of her teacher is handing a note to tattletale classmate May. Even
in the black-and-white drawings, Brunkus is able to capture facial
expressions that make one want to laugh out loud.
Any child looking for a good
nonthreatening Halloween story will probably enjoy visiting with the
Jones family in "Junie B., First Grader: Boo…and I Mean It!" You can
find this book and other scarier Halloween tales at the Lincoln
Public Library. Stop by at 725 Pekin St. and see what may be lurking
between our shelves!
Moreland, youth services librarian,