Everyone's favorite kindergartner is in first grade! The wonderfully outrageous Junie B. Jones starts out the school year with a bit of trepidation. New classmates in a new classroom with a new teacher is enough to make even this feisty redhead a bit nervous. And when she has serious trouble reading the blackboard, she find out she needs glasses! How does the beloved Junie survive these elementary-school horrors? With a sense of humor and a new friend named Herb.
Fans of this popular series will be very familiar with Junie B.'s wild and spontaneous antics, so it's no surprise when she darts from her father's arms on her anxious first day of first grade. She is momentarily distracted when she spots a glimmer of hope -- her very best friend from kindergarten, Lucille, is in her class. Lucille is less than ecstatic and informs Junie B. that while they were best friends last year, it's time for someone else to get a turn. Their names are Camille and Chenille, and they're twins. The oddity and magic of these identical sisters is not lost on Junie B., who excitedly wants to touch them before a line forms. But Lucille informs her that she is the twins' best friend, not Junie's. "Don't be sad, okay?" she said. "You and I can still be friends, Junie B. Just not on a regular basis." A comment riddled with the matter-of-fact nature and innocence of a first-grader.
The bus ride home does not look promising, either, as Grace, her bus buddy of the previous year, has found another girlfriend to sit with. Things look bad when Mr. Woo, the bus driver, yells at her to sit down. She plops next to Herb, a kid in her new class. When Junie mumbles that her best friends are dropping like flies and first grade is a flop, Herb agrees. And it seems Junie B. has made a new friend.
Junie's teacher, Mr. Scary, gives the students a journal to write in, to capture all their thoughts and ideas. Junie is wary of such a practice but agrees nonetheless. Throughout the story, her journal is shown, in the familiar handwriting of a new writer. It also shows her anxiety when Mr. Scary assigns them to read the blackboard and draw the pictures of the words displayed. The problem? She can't see a darn thing. Sentences like "Bob is a bug bag" and "I like my Hog spit" are not exactly what was on the board. So, after Mr. Scary's persuasion and some tests with the nurse, it is confirmed -- this little girl needs glasses.
When Junie finally gets her new glasses, she knows there is only one thing to do -- show them at show-and-tell and get it over with. After May shows her kindergarten report card and Shirley sings about her turkey sandwich, Junie stands up and pulls out her new glasses. When May's mean laugh fills the room, it is Herb who comes to rescue, jumping up and declaring that they are cool, that Junie B. is special and possibly has X-ray vision. A very glowing review in the elementary-school set.
Every Junie B. comment is marked with a hefty dose of honesty, clarity, and sass. The girl is a trip, keeping young readers (and the parents who read over their shoulder) in stitches. Creator Barbara Park has an astounding ability to tap into the mind of this spectacular girl and chronicle the life of a five-year-old with expert flair. And while laughs are a big part of Park's series, Junie B. also acts as a marvelous stepping stone for youngsters just beginning chapter books. With just the right amount of text, and those ever-so-amusing drawings of the lively Junie throughout the book, kids are sure to fall in love with reading for a lifetime. (Amy Barkat)