Kids pick things up at day care and at school. I was prepared for that. When my daughter was two and a classmate came home from visiting relatives in New York with a new vocabulary of four-letter words, I expected those words to show up at our house. Miraculously, they never did. She’s five and a half now, and she’s always remained a more-or-less well-behaved child, despite other kids. In fact, I’d say she’s picked up better manners at school than I ever taught her.
Then a new kid showed up at school. Her name is Junie B. Jones, and she came in the form of my kid’s first chapter book.
I hate Junie B. Jones.
This isn’t a new complaint, either. Junie B. has apparently been annoying mothers ever since she appeared in 1992. But she’s new to me, so at first I was mystified at why my generally pleasant kid had become increasingly obnoxious. Now when she yells, “Finder keepers, losers weepers!” at her two-year old brother and takes his toy, I know who to blame. When she decided shoe licking would be a fun habit to pick up, I knew who to blame. And when she announced that she’d be calling her grandmother “Grandma Miller,” despite the fact that Grandma isn’t even related to any Millers, I should have already known why.
“Because that’s what Junie B. Jones calls her Grandma,” she said.
I hadn’t actually met the infamous Junie B. until last night. I visited the library and decided to take a look at this beast child for myself. It only got worse.
I picked up Junie B. Jones and the Yucky Blucky Fruitcake. Page one, she decides that because her baby brother is screaming for his bottle, “he needed some discipline.” So she yells, “HEY! SHUT UP YOUR FACE!” Well, now I know why my kid has suddenly decided she’s in charge of her baby brother.
Pages five and six, I declared full-on war against Junie B. Jones with the following sentences: “I winned all of those games, too!”, “I’M THE BESTEST WINNN-ERRR,” and “‘Cause winning is the funnest thing I love.”
First of all, because it’s clearly not helping my little bad winner get better at personal celebration. But second, because I detest children’s books with bad grammar, even if it is with the intention of writing dialogue like a five-year-old. I’ve already lived through the phase where she spoke in the third person because Elmo did. I thought it was over. But lately her grammar has been declining. I thought it was my imagination–maybe I was just noticing more odd verb conjugations and incorrect superlatives. Now I’m adding it to the list of things I blame Junie B. for.
I also add the whole affair with Junie B. to the list of things that have moved from “I’ll never do that when I’m a parent” to “Oh yeah, I might have done that.” Even now, I’m culturally illiterate when it comes to cats in hats, Sneetches, Loraxes, Grinches, and the assorted adventures of an elephant named Horton, all because my mother–English teacher by day–thought Dr. Seuss was nonsense and refused to read it to me. I had to sneak Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends out of the library because she didn’t know when I requested Silverstein that he had moved on from his more adult work. That said, she probably wouldn’t have been a fan of Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook.
Reading is top of my list of important childhood skills, so I certainly don’t want to discourage it. And I don’t want to be the household censor either. But if I never hear the words “but that’s what Junie B. Jones does” again, it’ll be too soon.
Maybe it’s a little melodramatic to say these books are ruining my life. But I’m pretty sure that’s what Junie B. Jones would have to say about it.