June is the official start of summer, and booksellers will once again be treated to a month-long celebration with Barbara Park's feisty star of the Junie B. Jones series. Now in its third year, "June is Junie B. Month" is going the extra mile this year, with Random House sending Junie B. on her first-ever Stupid, Smelly Bus Tour.
The tour, which began in May and will run through July 22, is scheduled to hit 30 cities from coast to coast.
The bus carries actress Sandie Rosa, who plays Junie B., and Mr. Woo, the bus driver. While the author won't be on board the bus, she will be making an appearance in Phoenix when the bus stops there for two days in June. "The tour is pretty much every author's dream," Park said.
On each tour stop, a live show will be performed; in the show, Junie reaches into her Big Pink Trunk of Junk and puts on a show-and-tell with items fans will find familiar, such as her stuffed animal Phillip Johnny Bob and her shoes Pat and Leather.
Park, who wrote the script for the show, didn't have any reservations about kids meeting Junie "the actress" out on tour. "I can tell from the fan mail I get that the kids know Junie B. is a character," she said. "But they still want to know her and meet her. I once got a letter from a girl who wrote, 'I know she's not real, but can she come to my school?' "
For those towns that aren't on the bus tour's route, booksellers can still hold a bus-themed event with the materials supplied in the retail kit, which includes bumper stickers ("Honk if you love Junie B.!"), pop-up bus banks, scratch-and-sniff bookmarks as well as event suggestions and reproducible activities.
Also on Junie B.'s busy summer schedule is the debut of a theatrical production based on a year in the life of this first grader. The show is produced by Theatre Works and will open at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in New York City on July 14. From there, it will tour cities from coast to coast.
Park expressed gratification at how her series, which debuted in 1992, has grown in popularity over the years. "There has been this slow, steady build and acceptance of the books by parents and teachers." Now, 12 years after the release of Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, more than 21 million Junie B. books have been sold. She's certainly proven to be quite the popular grade-schooler.