Barbara Park, Adored Creator of Junie B. Jones, Dies at 66 Years Old
via Kathy Dunn, Agent Director, Random House Speakers Bureau:
“Barbara Park was best-known as the creator and author of the ‘New York Times‘ bestselling Junie B. Jones series, published by Random House Books for Young Readers, the stories of an outrageously funny kindergartner who has kept kids (and their grownups) laughing—and reading—for over two decades. The series has sold 55 million copies in North America alone, has been translated into multiple languages and is a beloved and time-honored staple in elementary school classrooms around the world.
The series was consistently a #1 New York Times bestseller, spending over 180 weeks on the list, and Barbara and her books were profiled in national outlets such as Time, Newsweek, USA Today, New York Times and The TODAY Show.
Park died on Friday, November 15th, after fighting ovarian cancer heroically for seven and a half years.
Barbara Park arrived at the writing profession through an alternate route. Before becoming a bestselling and beloved children’s author, she originally intended to teach high school history and political science. She got her secondary education degree, but quickly realized that her calling was to be a writer. She said, “My senior year of high school, I was voted ‘Wittiest.’ So several years later, I decided to try my hand at writing humor and see if I could be witty enough to make some money.”
After several rejections, her first book, Operation: Dump the Chump was published by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers in 1982.
She went on to write over 50 books, from the picture book Ma! There’s Nothing to Do Here!, a love letter to her grandson, to middle grade novels such as, Skinnybones, The Kid in the Red Jacket, Mick Harte Was Here, and The Graduation of Jake Moon, Barbara won more than forty children’s book awards, including several Children’s Choice awards.
On writing books for kids, Barbara once 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.”
Every bit as funny and as outrageous as her character, Barbara shared a special connection with Junie B. Jones. She once said of the series “I’ve never been sure whether Junie B.’s fans love her in spite of her imperfections . . . or because of them. But either way, she’s gone out into the world and made more friends than I ever dreamed possible.”
Barbara Park was born in Mount Holly, New Jersey on April 21, 1947 and spent most of her adult life in Arizona. There she raised her two sons, lived with her husband Richard, and spent time with her two young grandsons.
Throughout her life, Barbara was passionate about supporting causes, of which there were many that were important to her. She was a wish for several children participating in the Make a Wish Foundation. She would dedicate her upcoming books to those kids whose dying wish was to meet her. Barbara also founded her own charitable organization with her husband Richard, Sisters in Survival (“SIS”), a non-profit organization dedicated to offering financial assistance to ovarian cancer patients. SIS is an all volunteer organization and all donations go directly to women struggling with ovarian cancer. (www.sistersinsurvival.org)
Donations can be made to SIS, Barbara’s organization that her family will continue to run, at www.sistersinsurvival.org.”