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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.)

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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