Junie B. Jones is an, apparently, popular kidlit character who talks like real kids do. Some parents think this is not a good thing. You know, they might be right. Remember that entire generation that grew up talking like Dr. Seuss? We’re still in recovery from that, burbled the flinkflomp cat.
But more than a few parents have taken issue with Junie B., as she is called. Their disagreement is a pint-size version of the lingering education battle between advocates of phonics, who believe children should be taught proper spelling and grammar from the outset, and those who favor whole language, a literacy method that accepts misspellings and other errors as long as children are engaged in reading and writing.
The spunky kindergartener (first grader in more recent volumes) is prone to troublemaking, often calls people names and isn’t averse to talking back to her teachers. And though she is the narrator of the stories, she struggles with grammar. Her adverbs lack the suffix “ly”; subject and object pronouns give her problems, as do possessives; she usually isn’t able to conjugate irregular past tense verbs; and words like funnest and beautifuller are the mainstays of her vocabulary.
Children, however, are not usually strict grammarians. And it’s rare to find a child that isn’t quickly seduced by these silly, often slapstick stories. Even adults who are rankled by Junie B.’s impulsive, oft-unpunished shenanigans (playing with scissors or head-butting other children, for instance), can occasionally laugh at her odd little-girlisms. They include her passion for fixing toilets with her “grampa,” her desire to name her little brother “Mrs. Gutzman” after her favorite cafeteria lady, or her belief that green cucumber-like vegetables are named “Sue Keeny.”
Parenthood, though, is full of choices. Breast-feeding: Yea or nay? Muesli or Cap’n Crunch? Public or private school?
And now: To Junie B. or not to Junie B.?