After five years, New York Times bestselling author Barbara Park and illustrator Denise Brunkus have brought back the beloved first grader Junie B. Jones in a new book.
Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (and Other Thankful Stuff) follows Junie B. Jones and her fellow first graders from Room One as they enter a school-wide contest to create a “Thankful List” to celebrate the Thanksgiving season. The grand prize for the class with the best list is a homemade pumpkin pie from the lunch lady (though none of them wants it because pumpkin pie makes them vomit) and the bragging rights of being the only first grade class to ever win.
It turns out that being thankful is much tougher than it looks. Junie B. actually is not thankful for squash, scratchy and “hottish” pilgrim getups or her arch rival May, who sits next to her in class.
Not understanding their teacher Mr. Scary’s directions for the assignment, the connection between the pilgrims and Indians or what they should be thankful for, Junie B. and her classmates devise a list that is less than ordinary: “magical,” yummy cranberry sauce that’s shaped like a can, exploding biscuits, dog treats, toilet paper and Nipsy Doodles. Mr. Scary must resist the urge to correct them and appreciate the age-appropriateness of a list designed by 6-year-olds.
What is wrong with Room One’s list? Nothing. It’s a spectacular list created by curious and innocent children. It allows us to glance at the way children view life and discover happiness through humble pleasures.
I grew up reading Junie B. Jones and had almost forgotten just how much I adored her sassy character. I downright cherished this new adventure. I enjoyed observing as the children developed their list and explained what they were thankful for. Junie B.’s response was unanticipated and canny:
“I am thankful for the kind of cranberry jelly that comes in a can…only even when you take it out of the can, it still keeps looking exactly like the can!” I looked at my teacher. “That stuff is like magic,” I said. “I do not know how farmers grow it in that shape.” Mr. Scary looked at me a real long time. I looked back at my list.”
Junie B. could be considered to be a poor role model because of her cheekiness, bad spelling and poor grammar, but I don’t think there is anything in the books that a child would absorb in a negative way. The books demonstrate seemingly insignificant issues that perfectly depict the perspectives and intellect of a first grader. Junie B. is an animated child who just needs to mature a little more and gain control over her urges — a developmental task typical to real children her age.
Life has many obstacles; it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Junie B. shows children that there will be people in their lives that they may not always get along with. The humor and intentional grammar lapses throughout the book make you smile and appreciate Park’s work. The journal entries, vocabulary and misspellings add to the experience.
Park’s choice of characters is spot on in all of her books. In her newest, May is still that annoying, tattling rival who argues with Junie B. and blabbers to Mr.Scary. The characters are a mix of little individuals that we all can relate to.
I was worried that Park had moved on in her career. I hadn’t seen new work from her in quite a long time. I was starting to believe that Park had deserted her darling Junie B. After all these years, this latest addition to the series is exactly what you would expect. There’s nothing too unusual, nothing too outstanding, just your average Junie B. tricks. Parents and children who love her won’t be disappointed.
Junie B.’s experiences and interactions appeal to children and adults alike. Even today, I can relate, and remember the concerns I had when I was young. Park’s stories are entertaining and joyful to read. Several times I caught myself laughing out loud as I read. Other times I just sat on my couch with a geeky grin on my face. As I read, I reminisced about all of the Junie B. Jones books I read as a kid. I would love to have the time to read them all over again.
After reading this book to myself (it’s a really short read), I read it out loud to my 3-year-old son. He LOVED it! No, he probably didn’t grasp the humor, nor did he have the experience to fully understand it, but he sat there and laughed with me while enjoying the pictures. I will encourage him to read Park’s books as he gets older and I may even dust off my old ones to share with him for now.
I commend Park for her dedication and achievement in developing a series that makes reading enjoyable for kids. I hope to see more of Junie B. in the future. I highly recommend this book to Junie B. fans and will encourage people who do not know of this peculiar little girl to grab a copy and find out if Room One wins the Thankful Contest. Good luck trying not to fall in love!