I remember the Amelia Bedelia books from my childhood. Doesn't everyone? I mainly remember the silliness of this maid who took everything literally, and the types of mishaps that resulted. HarperCollins recently sent me the 50th anniversary edition of the first book.
Re-reading the original Amelia Bedelia, I still find it entertaining. The overall premise, the mishaps that result when someone takes everything literally, remains relevant today. Some of the examples in this first book are a bit dated (does anyone still talk about "drawing the drapes" or even "dressing a chicken"?) but at most will require a bit of explanation to young readers. And the pictures (Amelia Bedelia sketching the drapes, or "putting out" a bunch of lightbulbs on the drying rack) will still induce giggles.
What remains timeless is Amelia Bedelia's boundless cheerfulness, and her willingness to do whatever she is asked, even if it doesn't seem very logical to her ("Those towels are very nice. Why change them?"). Kids of all ages will also appreciate the way that Amelia Bedelia wins over the Rogers', despite her shortcomings as a maid, via her skill in making pie.
The Amelia Bedelia 50th anniversary edition would pair well with Imogene's Antlers by David Small. A number of the other original Amelia Bedelia stories (with some modifications, perhaps, I'm not sure) are still available as I Can Read books. In 2009, a kid version of Amelia Bedelia was introduced. She now appears in both I Can Read books and chapter books, written by Peggy Parish's nephew, Herman Parish. A handy timeline at the end of the 50th anniversary edition shows the changes in Amelia Bedelia's portrayal over time. I'm not sure what Peggy Parish would think of a kid version of Amelia Bedelia, but books featuring a child are obviously more relevant to kids today than those featuring a uniformed maid. And the new books maintain Amelia Bedelia's core trait. She takes everything literally, leading to comic mishaps. The fact that that kids are prone to such verbal misunderstandings is clearly timeless.
As a side note, I also loved Peggy Parish's series of mysteries for slightly older kids, about Liza, Bill, and Jed. Though I had to check Wikipedia for the kids' names, I remembered titles like Clues in the Wood and Key to the Treasure. These are sadly out of print (hello - ebook reissue, anyone?). These were among the formative books that left me with a lifelong love of mysteries. I can still picture the shelf that they were kept on in my elementary school library.
But back to Amelia Bedelia, I'm personally glad that one can still buy the original story. The 50th anniversary edition includes some lovely end material about Peggy Parish, Fritz Siebel, and Amelia Bedelia. Adult fans of the original books will enjoy this anniversary edition. And I think that many of them will like the idea of buying easy readers and early chapter books featuring a young, modern-day Amelia Bedelia. It says a lot about the strength of Amellia Bedelia's character that she can survive such a significant transformation.
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: January 29, 2013 (this edition). Originally published in September of 1963.
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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