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We all know and love that wacky, backward character Amelia Bedelia. She’s literal. She’s funny. And she is an amazing baker!
But what I’ve always wondered is how in the world was a character like Amelia dreamed up? Herman Parish is the answer to my question. After his aunt Peggy died, and after many years of receiving letters from children asking what Amelia was going to do next, Herman decided to continue his aunt’s legacy–easier said than done.
You must understand–Peggy herself was Amelia. She never understood American idioms and constantly got directions backward. One day, when Herman was riding with his aunt through her hometown, they passed a sign that read, “Manning, South Carolina–Matchless for Beauty and Hospitality.” She looked over at young Herman and said, “I’ve never understood that sign. People in Manning have plenty of matches.” Peggy Parish lived in the mindset of Amelia Bedelia, so it was natural for her to create Amelia’s blunders. Herman had to have his own Amelia Bedelia moment before he could write one.
One day as he was driving down the road on the way to a party with his wife, they came to a T in the road. They had two options: left or right.
He said, “Left?”
She said. “Right.” So he went right, and she screamed, “Left!” Can you see where he could get confused?
And after that, he was on a roll. Herman was spitting out books left and right, but he then he started to receive letters asking if Amelia was literal as a child. What a good question. What was she like? His readers presented him with a challenge, and he accepted. Amelia Bedelia’s First Day of School was created for young readers. He has since expanded on Amelia’s childhood by writing her into the fourth grade in chapter books! He responded to the children’s request and then some. I think it takes a brave writer to answer the public with a book. We write for our audience, but there aren’t many that write on request. I am not sure I would be able to do that.
As I sat listening to this man talk about his family and his good friend Amelia Bedelia, I remembered reading these books. I remembered how we added dust to the furniture and dressed the chicken in a tux. I remember reading Amelia with my mother and grandmother and laughing as they laughed at the pure silliness of Amelia. Peggy and Herman Parish have created a legacy that touches the hearts and memories of families every day. After all, how can you forget Amelia’s scrumptious lemon-meringue pie?
Fun Facts about Peggy (Margaret) Parish:
- Peggy Parish’s grandparents, the Rogers (sound familiar?), had a housemaid that was very literal and useless with housework.
- Peggy never let go of her black purse.
- Her illustrator, Fritz Siebel, was Austrian, so he too misunderstood American idioms. It seems the whole Amelia team understood her troubles.
- When Peggy retired to her hometown of Manning, she became known as the cat lady because every stray cat that turned up in town was taken to her house. After two years, she owned eleven cats.
- There is a statue of Amelia Bedelia with a cat in Manning to keep Peggy’s spirit alive.
What Amelia Bedelia book is your favorite?
Born in the hills of Louisiana and raised in the mountains of Tennessee, Hannah Rials is a seventeen year old aspiring author and editor. She’s been writing short stories since she was a little girl, but for the past several years, she has been writing, editing, and reediting a novel of her own that she hopes to publish in the near future. Hannah will be attending college in the fall 2014 as an English major with the hopes of becoming an editor, but for now, she is enjoying her time at Jump Into a Book as a columnist and intern!
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