By Terry Weber
“Peace and goodwill do not come easy for some people, do they, Mr. Scary?”
Thus the irrepressible Junie B. Jones asks her harried first-grade teacher.
Before reading and preparing to direct the brilliant theatrical adaptation, by Allison Gregory, of Barbara Park’s JUNIE B. IN JINGLE BELLS, BATMAN SMELLS, I had never encountered Junie B. Jones. Even though my wife and I were raising three children during the 1990s, when Park’s book series became wildly popular, somehow I missed them. Now that I’ve been introduced to the mischievous young Junie B., I understand why more than 55 million of the books have sold in North America alone. Junie B. is strong-willed, sometimes rude, sometimes combative, sometimes outrageous, but she’s also bright, creative, witty, and full of life. Plus, she and her friends in Mr. Scary’s Room One are downright funny – “a fun bunch” according to Junie B.
There is no question that Junie B. isn’t the perfect child. She is almost more than Mr. Scary and her family members can handle. While her quote at the beginning of this blog is about Junie B.’s first-grade nemesis, May, the sentiment certainly is true of Junie B. herself, too.
If we’re honest, it’s often (or mostly!) true of many of us.
In the play, when it’s least expected, Junie B. – seemingly in spite of herself – does the right thing. Even she doesn’t understand her action at that moment. In fact, she has mixed emotions about it, feeling more bad than good about having done the right thing.
Then, again when it’s least expected, she, too, is shown grace. A lesson about reaping what is sown begins to form in Junie B.’s heart.
God’s grace is all around us. Sometimes we’re a conduit for it, delivering His peace and goodwill to someone even when we aren’t really trying or desiring to do it. Sometimes we receive it, usually when we least expect and often when we least deserve it.
Junie B.’s creator, Barbara Park, once said: “Personally, I happen to think that a book is of extraordinary value if it gives the reader nothing more than a smile or two.” Agreed, but with all due respect to Ms. Park (who passed away Nov. 15, 2013), Junie B. gives us much more than that.