Barbara Park with her dog Maggie in 2007.(Photo: Pamela Tidswell)
(USA TODAY) -- In high school, Barbara Park was voted the "wittiest" member of the senior class.
That sense of humor served her well when Park abandoned plans to become a teacher and turned to writing children's books.
Park, who died Friday at 66 of ovarian cancer in Scottsdale, Ariz., sold more than 55 million copies of a 28-book series starring Junie B. Jones, a funny, talkative, trouble-prone school girl.
The series did well on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list; the best Junie B. showing was Junie B. Jones Is a Graduation Girl, which hit No. 6 in 2001.
In a 2004 interview with USA TODAY, Park said as a elementary school student in Mount Holly, N.J., "I was a good kid, but I was just very chatty. Teachers were rarely entertained but occasionally a child was, which was enough for me. Everything was so urgent. I needed to say it immediately."
In a career that began in 1982, Park published more than 50 books including the picture book Ma! There's Nothing to Do Here!, a love letter to her grandson, as well as middle-grade novels such as Skinnybones and The Kid in the Red Jacket.
She once said that some "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."
Park, who was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago, and her husband, Richard, founded Sisters in Survival ("SIS"), a non-profit, all-volunteer organization that offers financial assistance to ovarian cancer patients. Publisher Random House said that Park's family, including her two sons, will continue to operate the charity (sistersinsurvival.org.)
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