The Planet of Junior Brown

The Planet of Junior Brown

3.7 9
by Virginia Hamilton

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Junior Brown, an overprotected three-hundred pound musical prodigy who's prone to having fantasies, and Buddy Clark, a loner who lives by his wits because he has no family whatsoever, have been on the hook from their eighth-grade classroom all semester.

Most of the time they have been in the school building -- in a secret cellar room behind a false wall, where Mr.

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Junior Brown, an overprotected three-hundred pound musical prodigy who's prone to having fantasies, and Buddy Clark, a loner who lives by his wits because he has no family whatsoever, have been on the hook from their eighth-grade classroom all semester.

Most of the time they have been in the school building -- in a secret cellar room behind a false wall, where Mr. Pool, the janitor, has made a model of the solar system. They have been pressing their luck for months...and then they are caught. As society -- in the form of a zealous assistant principal -- closes in on them, Junior's fantasies become more desperate, and Buddy draws on all his resources to ensure his friend's well-being.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Junior Brown, a 300 pound eighth grader, plays the piano and has a vivid imagination. His best friend is Buddy Clark who has been homeless since the age of nine. They both hang out in the basement of their junior high school with a janitor, Mr. Pool. Neither has been to class for a semester, and yet they are able to slip in and out of school on a daily basis without anyone noticing. Right away the situation causes a massive suspension of disbelief. This middle grade novel originally published in 1971 shows its age. For instance, a middle-aged man hiding out with two twelve-year-olds in a school basement is cause for suspicion. Not only that, but the janitor does not seem concerned that both boys are missing out on an education. Instead he entertains them with an engine-powered solar system suspended from the ceiling, including a planet named after Junior Brown. Each of the characters in this book inhabits their own strange planets. Junior paints bizarre pictures and plays a piano which makes no sound; he also imagines he sees people who are not there. Buddy has been living on the streets for years and takes care of other homeless boys, housing them in an abandoned building. Mr. Poole who is supposed to be the boys' role model, is an ex-teacher who spends all his days with the boys thereby neglecting his work. Although Virginia Hamilton is a well-respected author and this book was a Newbery Honor, its characters, like the story, are unengaging and too weird to be likeable. 2006, Aladdin Paperbacks, Ages 8 to 12.
—Leslie Wolfson

Product Details

Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.13(w) x 7.61(h) x 0.61(d)
Age Range:
10 - 14 Years

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The Planet of Junior Brown

By Virginia Hamilton


Copyright © 1999 Virginia Hamilton Adoff
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4532-1379-7


THE THREE OF THEM were hidden in the dark. Enclosed in the forgotten basement room of the school, they were out of our time. One of them had been a janitor in the school for fifteen years. He was Mr. Pool. Once he had been a teacher, an unhappy secret known only by him and the two boys with him.

Long ago, Mr. Pool had constructed a false wall so that the forgotten room appeared to be nothing more than a large broom closet. He had nailed sheet rock to wood studs and had painted it battleship gray. Anyone entering the basement room would see the gray wall with the brooms and mops stacked against it. But only the three of them knew how to move one side of the wall back a foot or two, squeeze into the large room beyond and replace the wall again.

The three of them had entered the room through the false broom closet many times. And now, together they watched the feeble light of the solar system as they had before.

The planets of the solar system were suspended from metal rods which ran along spherical tracks attached to the ceiling. They were translucent plastic spheres lighted from within by tiny Christmas bulbs of red, yellow and blue. This holiday glow out of the planets seemed a very distant light. Yet it was the only light the three of them had and it became a huge light in the room's musty darkness.

Mr. Pool's head was visible through the silent swing of the revolving planets. His head was bald and glistened godlike in the void. Next to him stood big Buddy Clark. Buddy had been absent from school and on the hook for weeks. Now that he and Mr. Pool had completed their solar system, he thought he might never go back into that steaming noise some called the eighth grade. Big Buddy fiddled with the plastic Halloween pumpkin which he had painted a hot red to make it appear more like the sun. Soon his hands were making motions of magic over all the whirling planets.

Big Buddy's slender fingers were a match for the tough set of his jawline. Floating in the feeble light, his artful hands gave away his soul in a gentle ritual.

"I make a world a sto-ray… . Do you want to live creation?" Buddy's fingers seemed to sing in a startling, high song. "Come listen to my someday … how a world made black and brighter rose up righter than its wrong."

Mr. Pool's heart swelled with pride. No telling what Buddy would think up next. A boy like him, with a mind like that. Mr. Pool couldn't help saying, "You ought to write that down." He knew better than to make Buddy uncomfortable by saying more.

Junior Brown was there with them. He was deeper in the shadow light and dark at the far end of the solar system. Junior sat resting a portion of his huge and rolling fat as best he could in the one folding chair. Bent forward, smiling where Buddy and Mr. Pool couldn't clearly see his expression, he looked like a giant, black Buddha about to topple.

Junior Brown didn't move. He fixed his gaze on the outsized planet of Junior Brown in front of him. Junior loved the planet they had named for him. He should have known Mr. Pool and Buddy could make something he would have to love.

Glazed in beige and black, the planet of Junior Brown was shaped in the soft, round contours of Junior Brown's own face. It was a stupendous mass in a brand new solar system, and it claimed a powerful hold on a green, spinning earth. Earth had become the size of an agate racing along in front of the boundless planet of Junior Brown.

Junior Brown studied his planet, the sun, the earth and the other spheres. Finally he looked across space at the bald head of Mr. Pool and the hands of Buddy Clark cupped in a fixed applause.

"It couldn't happen," Junior said, shaking his head. "That close, the earth wouldn't be nothing by now but a pockmark on the planet of Junior Brown."

Mr. Pool had been watching Junior Brown watch his planet. He hoped the sad, fat boy realized how much work big Buddy had put into the planet of Junior Brown. But maybe the huge fat boy was only a selfish black boy, too heartsick at his own fate to reach out, to touch the fate of another.

No, you do what you can, thought Mr. Pool. You can't expect to save generosity.

"Like yourself," Mr. Pool said, suddenly, speaking to Junior, "astronomers were amazed one morning to discover a new ten-planet solar system right where the nine-planet one had been the morning before. Our earth was a part of the new system; yet it was trapped in the orbit of a fantastic planet known as Junior Brown."

"Then how come the new planet already had a name when it was only just discovered?" asked Junior. He had spoken as calmly as he could. He still didn't know whether there was a trick somewhere waiting for him.

"Why, it all happened on that morning," said Mr. Pool. "This boy was there at the planetarium early that day looking through the telescope. When he saw what had happened up in space, he commenced to yell for the astronomers.

"'Hey, looky here!' he kept screaming. Pretty soon, the place was full of sleepy-eyed stargazers. They all knew the boy had no business being in the room where the great telescope was housed.

"'What's your name, boy?' one of them thought to say.

"The boy, he said, 'Junior Brown Junior Brown! But looky here in the telescope!'

"'What's your name again?' one absent-minded professor asked him.

"'It's Junior Brown! It's Junior Brown! Looky here in the telescope!'

"Well," Mr. Pool said, "finally, they did look through the telescope. One of them said, 'Jesus, Ralph, it really is Junior Brown!'

"What the astronomers saw through their telescope," said Mr. Pool, "changed their lives completely and changed completely the whole order of things. However, the astros were not men to blow their cool. They had a sense of humor.

"'This might just stop the war for a while,' one of them said. Another said, 'And stop the population explosion.'

"'And riots,' the boy had said, getting into the swing of it, 'and poverty and going to the Statue of Liberty every field trip day.'

"After that," said Mr. Pool, "Junior Brown was always welcome at the planetarium. The astronomers never caught what his name was and never knew how they happened to call the amazing new planet, Junior Brown. But they were glad to have a name for it right off like that. Now, they wouldn't have to name it My Old Lady, which had been the suggestion of one graduate assistant."

"Oh, sure, man," Buddy Clark said, taking up the story from Mr. Pool. Buddy's voice was a soft, high purr. "Those astronomers measured and experimented and even ate their meals looking through that telescope. They had to admit that the ten-planet solar system after about fifty thousand years was stable and up there to stay for the rest of time."

In the feeble light of the miniature solar system, Big Buddy's hands flipped over, palms down. His hands crossed and slowly uncrossed, while in the room the planets slowed into gliding, peaceful revolutions.

There were three speeds to Mr. Pool's and Buddy Clark's solar system, the same as there were to any decent record player. It was Mr. Pool who had changed the pace of the planets while Junior watched Buddy's hands. But for Junior the slowing down of the planets had seemed like magic.

"Now," Buddy said, "just figure how those astronomers felt when it hit 'em that little earth wasn't a bit bothered by what had to be a hot-stuff gravity pull from the planet of Junior Brown. Shoot, man, they tore out their hair. Eyeballs were spinning!" Buddy Clark laughed. To Junior, the laughter spilled out of Buddy's mouth in musical triads.

"Remember." Mr. Pool spoke again. "Earth didn't circle the great planet like a satellite. It revolved around the sun in orbit with and in front of the planet of Junior Brown."

In shadow and light, Junior Brown tried to keep calm. Mr. Pool and Buddy could do anything, could make anything they wanted to make. It seemed to Junior that he couldn't do anything anymore, not even the one thing he wanted most to do. Behind his eyes, the sound of Miss Lynora Peebs' grand piano swelled in a perfect crescendo as he played it.

The music of his mind faded as Junior concentrated on what Mr. Pool had just told him.

It's some kind of math problem, he thought. He studied the orbiting earth and the planet of Junior Brown. Then he watched Mr. Pool. Junior's face was placid when at last he said, "There's no way to balance the earth against the pull of a planet the size of Junior Brown."

"Indeed," Mr. Pool said. "And when the astros calculated the planet's weight, they found it solid beyond all wishing otherwise.

"However," Mr. Pool added, "everything worked out just fine when a band of some thirty asteroids was discovered in the same orbit and at exactly the same distance from the planet of Junior Brown as was its leader, earth."

"My stars," said Buddy Clark, "I think I spy me an equation."

Junior Brown brushed his hand over his eyes. He should have known Buddy would have to pull some trick—just because he knew some science. Buddy couldn't play the piano, though, the way Junior could. He couldn't paint people, either.

"I don't see no thirty asteroids following the planet of Junior Brown," Junior said.

There was silence in the room before Buddy thought to say, "You don't see any moon going around the earth, either, man."

"I meant to ask you about that, too," Junior said. "And the sun you made won't be near big enough, either."

"Listen at this clown," Buddy said to Mr. Pool. His magical hands fell away into the darkness. "We had enough trouble adding an extra planet, didn't we, Mr. Pool?" And then: "You ever try to figure out the problems to adding a tenth planet to a nine-planet solar system?" he said to Junior. "Well, then, you should next think about trying to figure a band of asteroids to boot."

"If and when you going to build something, build it right," Junior told him.

"He always got to spoil something," Buddy said to Mr. Pool. "How you ever going to change a clown who don't have to want for nothing …"

"Didn't spoil nothing," Junior cut in on him. "I just didn't see no asteroids and you all started in talking about some asteroids."

"He want gold-plated asteroids and a fifty-foot sun made from silver," muttered Buddy. "I had hard enough time stealing a motor to run this whole thing."

Mr. Pool's head spun to one side. "You stole it? You didn't steal it, Buddy!"

"Naw!" Buddy said, clenching his hands in the feeble light. "I didn't steal it offen nobody!"

"Then why you say you stole it when you know you never did?" Junior said. He smirked at catching Buddy in a lie.

"Because, clown, it's easier to say I stole it than to tell how much of a steal it was picking it up in the street."

"Shuh," Junior said. "Motor lying there, jumping around on the corner. Say, 'Here I am, Buddy, come on, put me in your solar system.'" Junior laughed, his body rolling and shaking.

"Okay," Buddy said, "I got me a mechanism off of one cat in the gas station on Amsterdam and I got me another piece from a body shop on Canal. Pretty soon, I got all the parts and I put me together a motor, and that's the truth."

"You could of told us that in the first place," Junior said, "making out how you so tough, stealing a motor out of some store."

"I never did say I stole it out of no store!" Buddy exploded.

"Boys!" Mr. Pool said sharply. "Cut it out now. Let's get back to the solar system." He waited a moment for them to quiet down. Then he began again. "We all agree that the asteroids should be there following the planet of Junior Brown. Since they aren't, because Buddy and I didn't build them, we'll have to pretend they are there."

"He's just always got to be so right," Buddy couldn't help saying about Junior.

Junior Brown stayed quiet. He tried again to appreciate the fun they'd been having but he had already separated himself from it. He was outside of it, for fear it would turn on him.

"There's a band of asteroids right behind the planet of Junior Brown," Junior said. "I see a whole bunch of thirty of them."

"That's right," said Mr. Pool. "The asteroids and earth make two equilateral triangles with the planet of Junior Brown and the sun."

Then Buddy said, "Any three bodies in space forming an equilateral triangle will revolve in a circular orbit around one of the three …"

"I know it," Junior said softly. He wished he could just go home to his room. But he continued. "One triangle is Junior Brown, the asteroids and the sun. And the other is Junior Brown, the earth and the sun. It comes from the Lagrange proof that every planet will have in its orbit two points of gravitational equilibrium where matter could settle …"

"Good for you," Mr. Pool told Junior. "I hope you can see that each point would be the third corner of an equilateral triangle formed by drawing lines between it and the planet and the sun."

Junior looked from Mr. Pool to Buddy, then down to the spheres of the solar system. He was feeling pretty good inside, for Mr. Pool and Buddy had gone to a lot of trouble to take his mind off things. Junior always did like to play games. Only this planet of Junior Brown was almost more attention and kindness than he could stand. Rocking gently back and forth, he cupped both hands over his eyes.

Understanding Junior's shyness, Mr. Pool thought to look away. He turned toward Buddy Clark, who stood bathing his hands in the feeble light. Buddy seemed not to know what to do next to show his regard for the huge and talented, often helpless fat boy.

Mr. Pool smiled at the wonder of Buddy Clark, for seldom had Mr. Pool come across a street boy like him. He had found Buddy a year ago in the straggly, rough-house pit of the seventh grade. Hidden until the school was empty and looking like any half-wild alley cat, Buddy had crept from his hiding place and had picked the lock of the nearest classroom. Once inside, Buddy had opened a book he had with him and had filled the chalkboard with math problems beyond his comprehension.

So it had seemed, thought Mr. Pool.

Watching from the shadows of a year ago, he had discovered that Buddy could get through two or three problems difficult even for a college student. Weeks later Mr. Pool had thought of taking over a forgotten basement room and making it into a hidden place from where he might help and teach the boy.

But a year ago, skittish and suspicious of any adult, Buddy Clark had bolted. He hadn't sneaked back into the classroom at night for a month. The next time Mr. Pool saw him, Buddy had Junior Brown with him.

Junior Brown. A year ago Mr. Pool had seen Junior around. He'd heard Junior playing the piano in the music room but he hadn't gone near him.

With his talent, Junior should have been given all the care he needed. But so fat, so awful to look at. The school, like Mr. Pool, had left him alone.

From the very first he had been careful of the two boys. Last year, letting them know he was there in the shadows, he had kept his distance and was as cautious as any teacher ought to be.

Mathematics cushioned by astronomy had long ago been Mr. Pool's waking thought. Surely he had been successful in his classroom teaching. Tough, black children of city streets could lay bare their minds in his loud and open classes.

But I lost heart, thought Mr. Pool. I could no longer teach in so rigid a regime. Maybe I was wrong. Things change—has any of it really changed?

Only now, through his work with Buddy Clark and the example of Buddy's devotion to Junior Brown, did Mr. Pool slowly begin to believe in himself again. He could no longer remember when he arrived at the curious notion that the two-legged beings on earth were only disguised as men. Working with Buddy, he sensed a whole new being lying in wait within the boy.

Perhaps the human race is yet to come, thought Mr. Pool. We must make life ready.

Buddy Clark moved through the darkness of the hidden room with its solar system until he was standing beside Junior Brown. Gently he feinted a couple of left jabs to Junior's head and succeeded in easing the fat boy out of himself.

"Shuh, man," Junior said, half in anger. Swinging one of his enormous arms, he knocked Buddy away into darkness.

Buddy laughed, surprised, as he always did when reminded of the sheer strength of Junior Brown. Above them in the school, buzzers sounded, followed by muffled scuffling, like hundreds of rats trapped in an attic.

"Two-fifteen," Buddy said. "We still got us some time." He looked down at the mighty planet of Junior Brown. "Let them crack those books."

Junior Brown shifted his bulk in the folding chair. "I thought I'd maybe leave early," he said. He did not look at Buddy.

Buddy was silent a moment. Lately, Junior would try to get away by himself. Buddy never could figure out if Junior was trying to get rid of him.

"You leave early," Buddy said, "and you going to have to go down to the river and wait longer than you would ordinary, since it's Friday, anyway."

Immediately, Buddy knew he shouldn't have mentioned Friday. He could have kicked himself when he saw Junior trying to hide his 262-pound body within the flab of his arms.

"Listen, man," Buddy said to Junior, "Mr. Pool and me, we haven't even finished our entertainment. We got us a whole show ready—how much you know about our universe?"


Excerpted from The Planet of Junior Brown by Virginia Hamilton. Copyright © 1999 Virginia Hamilton Adoff. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Born into a large family and raised on a farm in Yellow Springs, Ohio, Ms. Hamilton grew up listening to stories shared by her mother and father. While studying writing at the New School for Social Research in New York City, she met a young poet, Arnold Adoff, and the two were married in March 1960. In 1968, Ms. Hamilton's first book, Zeely (S&S, 0-02-742470-7; Aladdin, 0-689-71695-8. Ages 10 up), edited by Richard Jackson, was published; and she and her family (which now included her daughter Leigh and her son Jaime) moved back to Yellow Springs, building their home on land that had been in Ms. Hamilton's family for generations. Ms. Hamilton's second book, The House Of Dies Drear (S&S, 0-02-742500-2; Aladdin, 0-02-043520-7. Ages 12 up), was published in 1968 and won the Edgar Allan Poe Award for best juvenile mystery. The success of these first two novels heralded a long and prolific career full of accolades and the most prestigious awards in children's literature.

Ms. Hamilton won the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 1992 and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award in 1995 for her body of work. Also in 1995, Ms.Hamilton received a John D. and Catherine C. MacArthur Fellowship, presented to "talented individuals who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits" and have demonstrated "exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work." She was the first African American to win the Newbery Medal, which was presented to her for M.C. Higgins, the Great (Aladdin, 0-02-043490-1; Aladdin, 0-689-71694-X; S&S, 0-689-83074-2. Ages 10 up). M.C. Higgins, the Great was also the first of only two books ever to win the Newbery Medal, the National Book Award, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush (Philomel/Penguin Putnam, 1982), The Planet Of Junior Brown (S&S, 0-02-742510-X; Aladdin, 0-689-71721-0; Aladdin, 0-02-043540-1), and In The Beginning: Creation Stories From Around The World (Harcourt, 1988) were all Newbery Honor books. Ms. Hamilton won the Coretta Scott King Award three times, and three times her books were selected as Coretta Scott King Award Honor books. Twice she won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction (for M.C. Higgins the Great and for Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush), while Anthony Burns: The Defeat and Triumph of a Fugitive Slave (Knopf, 1988) won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Nonfiction. In 1996 the NAACP Image Award was presented to her for Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, And True Tales (Blue Sky Press/Scholastic, 1995). She was also a winner of the Regina Medal of the Catholic Library Association, and in 1984 an annual children's literature lecture was established in her name at Kent State University.

Ms. Hamilton's writing career spanned more than thirty years, during which time she was awarded every major honor for children's book writing. To learn more about Ms. Hamilton and her books, please visit her Web site:

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Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
March 12, 1936
Date of Death:
February 19, 2002
Place of Birth:
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Place of Death:
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Attended Antioch College, Ohio State University, and the New School for Social Research

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Planet of Junior Brown 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The characters in this book are described as people that everyone should wish to be unlike and who form a fantasy world that is interesting but leads nowhere. It's opposite because - the janitor, an ex-teacher, knows that the two boys should be in school and the boys know that they should be in school, but since they're only boys, they're only attracted to a 'planet' of their own. A bad senario that should be read, but understood in reverse.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Homeless in the city, Buddy Clark, a Junior High student has to show his new friends the way to live in the dangerous, busy world. Junior, a very wealthy and family-oriented boy becomes a very close friend with Buddy. They have to encounter the problems life throws their way and overcome fears they may have. This story will bring you through the dangers of the city and show that through it all, friends will always be there for each other. Mike Lupica¿s book for young adults, ¿Heat¿ uses the popular sport of baseball to attract the reader¿s attention. The story has a famous player as a character. Its point of view is that if someone sticks to his/her motive it will come true. This book is grade for both genders and has a great plot to attract male readers as well as get the attention of female readers to learn and have a feel for baseball. It has a slight love story to go along with a tragic lifestyle.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Virginia Hamilton The book the planet of Junior Brown is such a good book. The part where Buddy anJunior get caught for skipping school was such a good part it was described in so much detail that it felt like I was there. Over all I think The book was so far the best book I've ever read. Clarence Yang Grade 8 Wilson Junior High School Manitowoc Wisconsin.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book stinks there is no plot or story line.Also shouldnt Junior have diabetes? And what did the title mean by planet? the run down houses used as shelters or the model solar system
Guest More than 1 year ago
it took me on a trip to bordsville at the begining.but at the middle it started to get alittle better.i dont see how this could realate to some thing that really happened.