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these chapter book series will appeal to children who love junie b jones
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17 Books That Will Delight Kids Who Love Junie B. Jones

These will appeal to all young readers, both enthusiastic and reluctant.

In the ‘90s and early ‘00s, Barbara Park’s Junie B. Jones series was like the Baby Shark song — that is to say, kids couldn’t get enough of it, and adults couldn’t stand it. But is Junie B. Jones a singular book? Or are there other children’s books like Junie B. Jones? It is a unique series—but there are some other titles that just might appeal to a reader who loves Junie B.

Park published 28 Junie B. Jones books between 1992 and 2013. While the series was an instant bestseller, many adults were not so amused by Junie’s antics; the series appeared on the American Library Association’s list of top 100 banned or challenged books from 2000-2009, and specifically were challenged for having “poor grammar” and “poor social values.” Responding to her critics, Park said, “There are those who believe that the value of a children’s book can be measured only in terms of the moral lessons it tries to impose or the perfect role models it offers. Personally, I happen to think that a book is of extraordinary value if it gives the reader nothing more than a smile or two. In fact, I happen to think that’s huge.”

Junie B. Jones is a spunky, often poorly-behaved early elementary school girl who uses words like “stupid” and uses grammar the way kids actually use it (referring to her “bestest” friend, for instance.) I’m particularly partial the opening of the second book Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business: “I’m only in kindergarten. But I already know how to spell B-A-B-Y. That’s because my mother told me that she is going to have one of those things.”

In honor of Park (who died in 2013), you won’t find any perfectly behaved role models on this list. Instead, you’ll find kids behaving like... well, kids. Most importantly, you’ll find books that your own early reader won’t want to put down.

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1

A chapter series for kids who like science and animals

Young Zoey discovers that she can help heal injured magical animals in the adorable series Zoey and Sassafras, written by a former science teacher who wanted to share her love of STEM with young readers. School Library Journal said that the Sassafras and the dragon “prove to be able sidekicks in the vein of Disney characters” — and what kid doesn’t love a funny sidekick? Lots of illustrations and larger type make it a good choice for a kid who is just starting chapter books, and a glossary in the back helps kids build their vocabulary. To date, there are nine books in this series, but they’ll quite likely be more soon.

2

A classic series that you probably read when you were a kid

If Junie B. Jones has a spiritual ancestor, it would have to be Ramona. The Ramona Quimby series is an unparalleled classic in children’s literature. Beverly Cleary was an early pioneer in writing books that showed kids being kids in all their annoying, messy, and volatile glory. Some aspects of them are slightly dated, but Ramona and her crew on Klickitat Street (Henry Huggins and of course her better-behaved sister Beezus) will never go out of style. The series has lots of funny moments, but it also tackles more serious concerns — Ramona’s father loses his job, and the family faces real struggles. Through it all, though, Ramona’s spirit never fades.

3

A series about best friends who have endless plots and schemes

Ivy likes reading (but also dabbles in the occult); Bean likes playing pranks and roughhousing. These two neighbor girls seem to have nothing in common. Bean is sure that Ivy is a bore. But when Bean is in a jam and needs to run away from home to avoid punishment (at least until dinnertime) they become best friends and their troublemaking is taken to new heights. There are 12 books in the Ivy and Bean series, and nearly every page has a picture, making them appealing to newer readers who won’t be able to help but be delighted at these girls’ audacious plans.

4

A series for the early reader who likes collecting stuff

Jada Jones, of the Jada Jones series, is a quirky, fun kid who navigates the social challenges of early elementary school in a realistic way. Jada’s biggest challenge is that her best friend moved away, something that many readers might be able to relate to. She tries to navigate the tough landscape of making new friends, all while retaining a deep and abiding passion for earth science and rocks. Though Jada is in fourth grade (giving her instant credibility with younger readers as a pretty big kid), the series definitely could have appeal to readers younger than that advanced age. Kirkus called these books “fast-paced, with supersimple vocabulary and a smattering of earth science to spark interest in young rock collectors everywhere.”

5

A series about supernatural beings and the kids trying to catch them

I devoured these books all through second grade: A group of kids are constantly having to figure out whether the adults in their lives are supernatural beings... or whether it’s all just circumstantial evidence. Lucky for kids today, there are dozens more books in the Bailey School Kids series than there were in the ‘90s — more than 80 books — so if a kid gets hooked on these, it will take a long while for them to run out. The series has the added fun of introducing young readers to legends about wizards, vampires, gremlins, and dozens of other magical creatures. The titles are always winners: Some favorites include Bigfoot Doesn't Square Dance and Ninjas Don't Bake Pumpkin Pie.

6

A series about a South African girl who learns about bravery and friendship

Lolo gets into lots of Junie B. Jones-like adventures and mishaps, though she’s a good deal more considerate and thoughtful than her predecessor. In the Lolo series, the titular character lives in South Africa with her mother and grandmother, and each chapter features a separate mini-adventure, which Lolo has at school, with a friend, or with one of her relatives. It’s more of a short-story collection than a traditional chapter book, making it a great choice for a bedtime read for kids who want their stories resolved before they can drift off to sleep. The International Board on Books for Young People praised these books as being among the “very few books for children of this age [to] combine a highly readable tone and a feisty young character of color.”

7

A classic series that gets new life through the graphic novel form

Children of the ‘80s will surely remember Kristy from the Baby-Sitters Club; her younger sister Karen had her own lengthy series. In these recent graphic novels, the Little Sister books are updated and illustrated, making them a great choice for readers who are in between chapter and picture books. Second grade Karen breaks her wrist, wins (and then loses) spelling bees, tries to launch a business of her own, and goes on a literal witch hunt (she’s convinced that her neighbor is a witch because she grows mysterious herbs like “fennel.”) Ann M. Martin’s classic stories feel fresh and new in their graphic novel form.

8

A series about young architects and entrepreneurs

This cute series about four kids who launch a fort-building business is a pretty realistic depiction of how a kid business would go: In the opening pages, the fort builders are trying to get their neighborhood friends to buy their custom forts, but their prospective customers keep trying to pay them in slime rather than money. But they persevere and figure out a way to both build a beautiful fort and make a little money for their efforts, as well as becoming closer friends along the way. The Fort Builders series features lots of pictures, short chapters, and glossary in the back to help with hard words, which makes these books both accessible and fun. It just might inspire a business-minded kid to start their own fort-building business (or at least make a cool fort for themselves out of Amazon boxes).

9

A series about a second grader ready to take on everyone’s problems

Young readers will have fun with 7-year-old Veronica, the protagonist who always wants to fix problems but — as kids sometimes do — often ends up making them worse. Her declaration on the opening pages is sure to draw in a reluctant reader: “Adults think that kids don’t have problems. They think that just because you’re a kid, your life is all easy-peasy, butterflies and rainbows, and whipped cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” (Ha!) The six-book Fix-It Friend series is perfect for first or second graders. Kids who struggle with reading might particularly enjoy book four, which feature a character who struggles mightily with reading, but still gets to the be the star of the school play.

10

A classic series about sibling rivalry

Barbara Park credited Judy Blume as her inspiration for writing funny books for kids; Judy Blume said of the Junie B. Jones series, “I didn’t write them, but I wish I had.” And of course, parents have been up in arms about the content of Judy Blume’s books for decades — though her books for teens have ruffled the most feathers, Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing has been challenged for its admittedly disturbing ending, in which the younger brother swallows the older one’s turtle. The Fudge series is probably for slightly older readers, but although these books are 50 years old, they’re still likely to resonate, particularly for older siblings who are endlessly annoyed by their younger ones.

11

A series about a spunky girl with big ideas

Like Junie B., Clementine is always getting in trouble — but all her actions make perfect sense if you see it through her eyes, which these books do. (When her friend gets glue in her hair and asks Clementine to chop all her hair off, what’s Clementine supposed to do, say no? So unfair that she gets sent to the principal’s office!) Everyone is always telling Clementine to “pay attention,” but she is paying attention, just maybe not to what the adults around her wish she was paying attention to. Clementine herself is in third grade, but the Clementine series will appeal to kids K-3.

12

A series for kids who like magic and adventure

Azmina, Willa, and Naomi learn that they’re the “Glitter Dragon Girls” and have magical powers in the seven-book Dragon Girls series. They can fly, breathe glitter fire, and roar so loudly that they shake the trees, but have to learn how to use these incredible abilities for good. These are great choices for the 7- to 10-year-old set; some of the adventures might be a little intense for younger readers. For parents who loved the Animorphs series when they were kids, these books are an early intro to a similar style of intrigue and adventure.

13

A super cute series that bridges the picture-chapter book divide

The short Bink, the tall Gollie, and a fish named Fred have lots of cute adventures in this illustrated four-book series, which won the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award. Lots of pictures and short text make this a good read-aloud option for ages 3 and up, and a good choice for a brand-new readers. It’s basically a graphic novel for early readers, and never has more than a few sentences per page. Fans of the DiCamillo’s extremely popular Mercy Watson series will recognize her hallmarks of joking repetition, stilted language for comic effect (in the first book, Gollie tells Bink, “The brightness of those socks pains me. I beg you not to purchase them.”) and the protagonist who longs for carbs (in this case, pancakes rather than toast).

14

An old-fashioned series about misbehavior and boarding school

Set in the 1940s, these books follow the adventures of Elizabeth Allen, an English girl who is sent to an elementary boarding school and decides to be so badly behaved that she’ll get kicked out. She eventually thinks better of this plan, but not before she’s caused all kinds of problems. The British English (there’s a lot of the word “shan’t”) and the older time period make this a more likely read-aloud choice for younger readers, but they will still will be delighted by the school, which is 100% run by the kids. Elizabeth keeps her rebellious spirit in the Naughtiest Girl series, but eventually learns that being naughty is really just a punishment to herself.

15

A series for an angsty tween who just wants to be left alone

We’ve all heard of teen angst — but what about tween angst? Well, it’s real, and this series captures it. With titles like “Never Do Anything, Ever” and “It’s Not My Fault I Know Everything,” Jamie, the perpetually annoyed protagonist of the Dear Dumb Diary series, is sure to delight a curmudgeonly reader. There are 12 books in the “year one” series and four in “year two.” Like Junie B. Jones, this isn’t a protagonist who parents are necessarily going to fall in love with, but they won’t be able to help but smile at the dedication: “For everybody that is in, or will be in, or has ever been in, middle school.” Best for ages 9-12.

16

A series for fans of Fancy Nancy who are ready for chapter books

Fancy Nancy and her glamorous ways are well-known to the picture-book reading crowd, but she also appears in a short series of chapter books (currently eight books long) that are great for readers who are outgrowing the picture books but aren’t yet ready to leave Nancy behind. She becomes a sleuth and a movie star, and she stays true to herself and her desire for the finer things in life while learning some lessons along the way. Author Jane O’Connor is a master at teaching young readers vocabulary words in a way that doesn’t interrupt the flow of the story or feel clunky. Readers will smile at Nancy’s antics and have some $10 words in their pocket to bust out on unsuspecting adults.

17

Books about misfit kids by Junie B. Jones’ author

Barbara Park wrote many more books than the Junie B. Jones series, including her classic The Kid In The Red Jacket, in which 10-year-old Howard has trouble adjusting to his new school. Like many of the protagonists, he perfectly parodies the way adults talk to children (“It was the day of the ‘big move.’ At least that’s what my parents kept calling it. I hated that. It’s not that I didn’t realize moving from Arizona to Massachusetts was ‘big.’ It’s just that when they said it, they made it seem real exciting and fun.” ) For readers who are outgrowing Junie B. Jones, Park’s other works retain her telltale wit and observational humor for slightly older kids. Another beloved Park book has the amazing title My Mother Got Married (and Other Disasters).

Whether consciously or not, all of these authors took Park’s words—that a book has done enough if it makes a kid smile—to heart. Many of them might make your kid laugh out loud. Not every one of these books will teach some grand morality lesson to your kid, but they will learn a different lesson: reading isn’t just something that adults make you do—it’s actually fun!