Junie B. Jones and Mary F. Pols: Two Literary Events

Can you believe it’s been since May that I’ve posted? Does anyone really care? For some strange reason, on July 3, 60 people checked out this blog. That’s 6-0, folks, the highest number ever!

What’s next for this part-time blogger, full-time worker? According to Notes from the Universe, all I have to do is “think great thoughts.”

In the meantime, I am plying my multi-faceted trade. Here are a few of the Books, Inc. Alameda events I’ve been to lately.

First, was the irrepressible Junie B. Jones. (The actors were delightful!) This piece, with photos, ran in the June 27, 2008 issue of the Alameda Sun:

The Wild and Stupid Smelly Bus Tour of Junie B. Jones

by Mary Lee Shalvoy

“Junie B. Jones” talked non-stop, grabbed a variety of treasures from her “Big Pink Trunk of Junk” for a wacky show-and-tell (the cymbals were a nice, noisy touch) and generally ran amok around Books Inc. last Tuesday night.

June is Junie B. Jones month, of course, and the character honored the Park Street shop with a stop on her whirlwind “Stupid Smelly Bus Tour.” It’s a 25-city, cross-country excursion that promotes the silly 6-year-old star of the best-selling “Junie B. Jones” series of books written by Barbara Park and published by Random House. The series, launched in 1992, offers 27 books and an interactive journal, and has sold 44 million copies around the world.

For the crazy road trip, the vivacious Junie B. Jones character has a traveling companion in Mr. Woo, the driver of her bright pink school bus. While Junie B. entertained the audience (the 5- to 7-year-old set and their clearly bemused parents), Mr. Woo offered some adult supervision, although not quite enough to avoid the cymbal clanging. At one point in the 20 minutes of hilarity, either before or after the quick change into a bunny suit and the introduction of her stuffed elephant, Philip Johnny Bob, Junie B. proudly extracted the floaty ball from her toilet tank, proclaiming it her favorite plumbing supply.

Junie B. engaged the audience members with questions, but often they offered their own comments and squeals throughout the event, providing a bit of spontaneity. After show and tell, Junie B. stamped books for all the kids in the audience.

It’s an exciting trip for Caitlin Thurnauer, who plays Junie B. Jones, and Jay Paranada, the often-befuddled Mr. Woo, who clearly relish and take their roles seriously. The best part of the gig for them is seeing the reaction of the thousands of children they meet on the road at bookstores, shopping centers, libraries and military centers. The two invite questions and interaction from their fans. The craziest question Junie B. and Mr. Woo have been asked on this tour? “Do you like pigs?”

In addition to the fun and games, the Junie B. Jones tour is also helping kids in need. During the month of June, Books Inc. has partnered with Random House, and for every two books in the Junie B. Jones series sold, one book is being donated to an organization called First Book. First Book is a nonprofit organization devoted to giving children from low-income families the opportunity to read and own their first new books.

Here are the photos.

Before Junie B., there was the Mary F. launch party for her book Accidentally on Purpose. It ran in the July 10 issue of the Alameda Sun.

Mary F. Pols and Her Journey to Accidental Happiness

by Mary Lee Shalvoy

Mary F. Pols launched her first book, a memoir, at Books Inc. in Alameda.

Mary F. Pols launched her first book, a memoir, at Books Inc. in Alameda.

Book Review

You might want to hate Mary Pols, Alameda mom and author of the memoir Accidentally on Purpose: A One-Night Stand, My Unplanned Parenthood, and Loving the Best Mistake I Ever Made (HarperCollins, 2008), like I did.

From my perspective, the gods of the Writers’ Universe have been very good to Pols.

She’s a local (she even lives in my neighborhood) who got a book deal with a reputable publishing house, after both a successful career as a film critic for the Contra Costa Times and a writing fellowship at Stanford. (Please kill me now.)

Pols even managed to find a topic that no one else, except for the inimitable Anne Lamott with her book Operating Instructions, had yet to tackle in non-fiction — choosing single motherhood by keeping her baby from an unplanned pregnancy.

Then I met Mary Pols and read her book, and though I am still a bit jealous, I can’t really hate her. For in Accidentally on Purpose, Pols’ book takes the reader on a journey from the day that leads to a one-night stand, through the discovery of her pregnancy, the birth of her precious son, and some additional life-altering events without a hint of hubris.

In fact, she writes about her life, like the one night of the aforementioned stand, her failed attempts at love, her struggles in the relationship with her baby son’s father, and her parents’ aging, in such detail and with such candor and intimacy that you have a tendency, as one reviewer said, to “wince.”

More than once, I closed my copy of the book with that feeling that I was peeking into someone’s diary.

But these are the elements that make for excellent writing and a darn good memoir.

“I don’t think a memoir is really worth doing if you’re not going to be completely honest,” said Pols.

Especially uncomfortable for me was reading about her relationship with the baby’s father.

Pols had difficulty with the situation, too, but a year out from finishing the book she is “just grateful for how good and kind he is and how much he loves his son.”

In the book, while Pols describes her life’s events, she also comes to a few important epiphanies about working through whatever happens in your life and letting go of long-harbored expectations.

“It’s about finding happiness in an unexpected place,” explained Pols and, in addition to the book deal, the beautiful boy and an excellent father for him, “I found peace.”

We all could be a little jealous of Pols, but maybe a little grateful, too.

She has shown us how to take the lemons of life that grow from the bad decisions that we make, and turn them into sweet lemonade.

Mary Lee Shalvoy is an Alameda writer.


4 thoughts on “Junie B. Jones and Mary F. Pols: Two Literary Events

  1. Andromeda

    The nature of this book, as I can understand it without buying and reading it myself, is its title: “Accidentally ON PURPOSE: A One-Night Stand, My Unplanned Parenthood, and Loving the Best Mistake I Ever Made”, which says it all.

    The message is: get pregnant using a one-night stand from a low-status jobless male with-low quality genes and fulfil yourself as mother, when you get tired working for a living.

    Matt, the “babydaddy”, Mary Pols’ words, sounds like he is not the brightest bulb in the box. He was described as 29, “rather clumsy conversationally, as if he were new to the flirtation game. On the way to his apartment, he confessed he didn’t have a J-O-B. The fact that he needed to spell it, rather than say it, led me to believe that he would be only a fleeting presence in my life.”

    Sounds like he wasn’t even that keen to bed Mary, or wasn’t clever enough to know that this would be when any non-slag and slapper would back out. Maybe out of a sense of decency he was trying to tell her that a girl like her was slumming it a bit with him and should look in better places, even if it was just a one-night stand. Maybe he was just trying to see how much you were gagging for it.

    I just feel sorry for Mary Pols’ father, a Catholic. I suppose he didn’t think to disown or disinherit her? I know what I would do to any daughter of mine who gets knocked up by some low-life dimwit.

    So, now, to earn a bit of money, she has written a book telling other women that it is OK to do this, and in fact ENCOURAGING them?

    No doubt I will be rounded on for being illiberal and intolerant for saying what I have just said.

    But then some civilisations sometimes get a collective death wish and deserve everything they get that’s coming to them.


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