The Face on the Milk Carton

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The Face on the Milk Carton
The Face on the Milk Carton.jpg
AuthorCaroline B. Cooney
Cover artistTyler Dianne Pullara
CountryUnited States
SeriesThe Janie Johnson series
GenreYoung adult novel
Publisher"Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers", a division of "Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group. Inc."
Publication date
Media typePrint (Paperback)
ISBN0-316-15577-2 (first edition, paperback)
Followed byWhatever Happened to Janie?
The Voice on the Radio
What Janie Found
Janie Face to Face 

The Face on the Milk Carton is a young adult novel written by author Caroline B Cooney and first published in 1990.[1] Part of The Janie Johnson series, it was later adapted into a film for television.[2] The book is about a 15-year-old girl named Janie Johnson, who finds out she was kidnapped, and her biological parents are somewhere in New Jersey. She happens to look down at a milk carton one day, and she sees herself on a milk carton under the heading "Missing Child." Her life gets more stressful as she tries to hide the secret from her "parents," who she believes did not kidnap her. Janie tells her next-door neighbor, Reeve, everything. Together the two of them unravel all of the secrets surrounding Janie Johnson's life.

The book was number 80 on the most frequently challenged books in the US for 1990-1999[3] and number 29 for 2000-2009.[4] Books are banned or restricted at U.S. public schools for sex and profanity.[5]


While at lunch one day, Janie grabs her best friend, Sarah-Charlotte's milk carton and it changes her life completely. She notices the 'missing person' photo on the back of the milk carton and it happens to be herself when she was very young, dressed in a white polka dotted dress. The milk carton says that Jennie Spring was kidnapped from a New Jersey shopping mall when she was three years old.[6] Janie believes the carton must be some type of joke because her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, are loving parents that would never kidnap anyone, especially Janie. Janie tries to put it out of her mind, but she begins having flashbacks, or what she calls "daymares," of events and people that don't fit in with her current life. She remembers other children and a woman who is not Mrs. Johnson, along with the dress.

Janie goes to the attic and rummages through the boxes that she finds there, in the boxes, the school papers with the name Hannah Javensen. She also finds the polka-dotted white dress that she saw on the milk carton. When confronted by Janie, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson explain that Hannah is their daughter, and that Janie is Hannah's daughter, their granddaughter. Hannah was a confused teen who joined a cult at a young age. She was mated to one of the men in her cult and one day showed up at the Johnsons' house with Janie. Hannah returned to her cult, and the Johnsons left with Janie fearing that the cult would try to get her back, moving to a different state, and even changing their names from 'Javensen' to 'Johnson.' Janie comes to the conclusion that the memories are of her life in the cult before coming to the Johnsons. Janie is relieved that the people whom she believed to be her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, were not kidnappers.

However, Janie cannot get the picture on the milk carton or the memories of another family out of her mind. She researches the Jennie Spring kidnapping. She comes to the conclusion that her parents might have actually kidnapped her. But, she still loves them and tries to forgive them. Still, Janie and her boyfriend, Reeve, go to New Jersey to see the Spring family with their own eyes. The entire family has the same red hair that Janie has, which neither Mr. and Mrs. Johnson or even Hannah has. It is evidence that Janie can't ignore, but she tries to anyway. She writes the Spring family a letter, but she doesn't mail the letter because she is still unsure about what to do. While at school, Janie loses the letter and the decision of whether to tell or not is taken out of her hands as she realizes that someone might have dropped it in the mail. Finally Janie asks her parents what to do about the letter and confronts them with everything she has learned. Mr. and Mrs. Johnson are shocked. They figure that Hannah was probably the one who kidnapped Janie; they also decide that the Springs must be called. Janie tries to keep them from telling anyone because she loves them very much and doesn't want to hurt them. But Janie's mother is adamant; the Springs have been without their daughter for too long.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "BOOKS: Complex kidnapping story balances heartache with hope". Mitchell Republic. March 31, 2013. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  2. ^ Scott, Tony (May 24, 1995). "The Face On the Milk Carton". Variety. Retrieved September 22, 2018.
  3. ^ "100 most frequently challenged books: 1990–1999". Banned & Challenged Books. American Library Association. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  4. ^ "Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books: 2000-2009". Banned & Challenged Books. American Library Association. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  5. ^ "Books banned for sex, profanity; Survey documents titles removed from Washington schools". Moscow Pullman Daily News. Associated Press. February 11, 2005. Retrieved 22 September 2018.
  6. ^ Landsberg, Michele (November 15, 1991). "The Face On the Milk Carton". Entertainment. Retrieved September 22, 2018.