Greetings, Learning Expresssions Readers!
“I guess I love
mischief as much as Amelia Bedelia. I simply enjoy laughing at life.”
– Peggy Parish
Happy (belated) Amelia Bedelia Day!!! For those of you that who don’t know, Tuesday was the 50th birthday of the loveable, literal-minded housekeeper. Back in 1963, Peggy Parish’s delightful tale first made its way onto bookstore shelves and into the hearts of children everywhere. 50 years later, the book has been enjoyed by generations of young readers and sold over 35 million copies in the US alone. But how did Amelia come to be? And how has she grown and changed over her 50 years in print? That’s what we set out to find out for you today!
Author Peggy Parish was a South Carolina native, though she later moved to Oklahoma, Kentucky, and eventually New York City to pursue teaching. While teaching the third grade, Parish was struck by the funny mix ups her young students often had with their vocabulary. The English language is a famously difficult one to master (why do noses run and feet smell?) and Parish would often chuckle over her students’ struggles to master its strange, elusive inconsistencies. Sharing these chuckle-inducing anecdotes with her editor, Parish was inspired to create a character equally puzzled by the vagaries of English. And so the character of Amelia Bedelia was born! Parish partnered with editor Susan Hirschman and illustrator Fritz Seibel to bring Amelia and her antics to life.
This week on the blog we are giving away the newly released
commemorative 50th anniversary copy of
Amelia Bedelia—to win a copy just post a comment at the end of this post! We love this beautiful edition because it features the original jacket and artwork from the 1963 release. It also includes pages at the back with archival photographs, sketches, and anecdotes about the book. We’ve included the picture of the original draft of Amelia Bedelia below, featuring editor notes and the taped in manuscript. Pretty cool, right?
Peggy Parish wrote a total of 12 Amelia Bedelia books during her lifetime. After she passed away in 1988, children wrote to Parish’s nieces and nephew to find out if Amelia Bedelia would be having other adventures. Nephew Herman Parish decided to give it a go—but change things up a bit. “I gave myself a year, since I wanted to study my aunt’s books and how they worked, but I didn’t want to copy them,” he told Publishers Weekly. “She used the brilliant device of having Amelia being given a list of things to do, but then being left alone to interpret it literally and run amuck. I decided I wanted to have her have face-to-face misunderstandings instead.” Mr. Parish has been writing Amelia Bedelia tales and carrying on his Aunt’s legacy for the last 15 years. And he doesn’t think he’ll be running out of Amelia Bedeliaisms anytime soon, commenting, “Life supplies so many literalisms and idioms, and I’m always hearing things that I want to find a way for Amelia Bedelia to use.” Amelia Bedelia books also come in an I Can Read format, and the collection now includes stories about the young Amelia Bedelia. Check out the graphic to see Amelia change over the years!
In honor of Amelia Bedelia (in all of her iterations) we want to share some of our very favorite Amelia Bedeliaisms with you!
- During her first day of work, Mr. and Mrs. Rogers leave Amelia Bedelia at their house with a list of chores. Amelia’s first task is to change the towels. Being the obedient worker she is, Amelia gets a pair of scissors and cuts the towels until they’ve been sufficiently changed.
- Amelia’s list of chores also includes preparing dinner. Her dinner preparations involve trimming the fat on some steak and dressing the chicken. Amelia Bedelia trims the fat with lace and bits of ribbon and dresses the chicken in an adorable pair of overalls.
- In Calling Doctor, Amelia Bedelia, our absent-minded protagonist is in charge of answering the phones. While this task would be easy for anybody else, Amelia Bedelia has some difficulties. When one patient calls the doctor’s office to say she’s “caught a bug,” Amelia kindly suggests that she let it go.
- In Teach Us, Amelia Bedelia our heroine is tasked with teaching a class of children for the day. On the agenda? Calling the roll. Amelia finds a roll of bread and calls for it to come to her, much to the amusement of her students.
- In Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia, the Rogers family is preparing for a Christmas celebration. Amelia Bedelia decides to help her employers welcome their houseguests with carols. When Aunt Myra stops by for a visit, she is surprised to find Amelia Bedelia at the door with three children. Amelia explains that the three children are Carol Lee, Carol Green, and Carol Lake.
- Amelia Bedelia is a surprisingly clever business professional. In Amelia Bedelia Means Business, young Amelia struggles desperately to afford a new bicycle. As Amelia describes the bike to her parents, her mother estimates that a bike so special must cost an arm and a leg. Amelia Bedelia responds, “I’d never pay that much. You need both your arms to steer a bike like that and both legs to pedal it.”
And, finally, who can’t help but love the ameliorating power of Amelia’s famous lemon-meringue pie? Parish closes her first Amelia Bedelia book with, “Mrs. Rogers learned to say undust the furniture, unlight the lights, close the drapes, and things like that. Mr. Rogers didn’t care if Amelia Bedelia trimmed all of his steaks with lace. All he cared about was having her there to make lemon-meringue pie.” That must have been one delicious pie!
We hope you enjoyed learning a little bit more about the history of Amelia Bedelia. Don’t forget to leave us a comment so you can enter to win your very own 50th anniversary edition of Amelia Bedelia!
Thanks for reading, talk to you again soon!