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'Junie B., First Grader:
Boo...and I Mean It!'    
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[OCT. 13, 2004]  "Junie B., First Grader: Boo…and I Mean It!" by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus, Random House, 2004, 86 pages, ages 6-9 years

Junie B., First Grader: Boo...and I MEAN it! (Junie B Jones)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 confidant.

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!

[Louella Moreland, youth services librarian, Lincoln Public Library District

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