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Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Literally Yours, Amelia Bedelia

I thought that for today’s edition of the blog, I thought that I would talk about one of my all time favourite book series. 

Before I do though, I want to talk about another subject that is in relation to this blog.

Surely most of us have used figures of speech in our own daily conversations, e-mail messages, text messages, written letters, and other various forms of communication.  I know that in my life and times, I have used several.  I probably have used some figures of speech in this very blog over the years.

Now, there are literally hundreds of examples of figures of speech that exist in this world, all the way from allegories to zoomorphism.  And, obviously I won’t be touching upon ALL of these, as this blog entry would end up being ten thousand words.

(And, apparently for some of you, 10,000 words is just a bit much for all of you to read.)

There are some that I end up using more than others.  Take the basic, standard proverb for example.  A proverb is a simple, concrete saying often repeated that expresses a truth based on common sense or a practical experience.  Some examples of proverbs include lines such as, “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”, or “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, or “A penny saved is a penny earned”.

I am also a glutton for “pun”-ishment, as I tend to use puns quite a bit in my speech patterns.  But I usually try to avoid the double negatives, as double negatives are not never always confusing to me.

And then there are phrases which use words that can have a double meaning, which for the most part we understand what it means.  For instance, take the phrase “let’s pitch a tent”.  Now, most of us take that phrase as meaning “let’s set up a tent in the middle of the woods and make our camp”.  We would never actually throw the tent like we would a baseball, because that would just be silly.

So, what do you think would happen if someone you knew actually DID throw a tent when she was asked by someone to pitch the tent?  You’d think that they were a bit...well...dense, wouldn’t you?

(I’m really trying to choose my words carefully, can’t you tell?)

Truth be told, in our blog topic today, two of the main characters really had to do the same.  They really had to choose what they were saying very carefully for the risk of their housekeeper twisting the words around and doing something completely wrong were quite high.  Mind you, it wasn’t the housekeepers fault.  She really did try her best to please her employers and she really did have a heart that was pure gold (but don’t tell her that, she may try to sell it at a pawn shop if she needed money for Christmas shopping or something like that), but she was just too...literal of a person.

Of course, to the children who grew up reading about the mishaps and mayhem at the Rogers family household, the comedy that stemmed from the misunderstandings and misinterpretations was genius, and I remember being one of the kids who laughed the loudest when our second grade teacher would read the books to us during the story time period at school.

In today’s blog topic, I wish to introduce you to Amelia Bedelia, the blue bonneted maid who means well, but doesn’t quite understand what it is that she is supposed to do because of her naive personality and her constant bungling of simple instructions due to her taking things a little too literally.

Amelia Bedelia was the creation of South Carolina born Peggy Parish, and the inspiration for the character came from her childhood years spent in the country of Cameroon.  While she was living there, she was inspired to write a series of tales based on a maid that she knew.  What was interesting about the maid was that she had a sizeable collection of elaborate and beautiful hats, filled with lots of plumage and embellishments.

(Ah, so that’s what inspired the gigantic blue bonnet filled with little pink flowers that Amelia Bedelia always wore in each book.)

Peggy Parish wrote down an assortment of stories based on the maid and some of the experiences that she had while growing up in North Africa, and gave the main character of the stories the name of Amelia Bedelia.

The first book in the series was “Amelia Bedelia”, with Fritz Seibel contributing the illustrations for both the cover and inside pages.  Upon its release in 1963, the book quickly became a favourite of many school children all over the United States, and it really was a strong introduction to the character.

The plot line for the first book was quite simple.  Amelia Bedelia was recently hired as a maid for the wealthy Rogers family, and she was so determined to make a good impression on them.  But when everything she did ended up being wrong, she was fearful that she would lose her job.  So when Mrs. Rogers leaves a list of chores for Amelia to do while they go out, Amelia tries hard to do everything correctly.

Unfortunately, the list isn’t exactly clear...well, in the eyes of Amelia Bedelia anyway...and Mrs. Rogers simple instructions get bungled up in only the way Amelia could misinterpret them.  Among some of the gems that take place are the following;

Putting out the lights for Amelia Bedelia involves taking a string of Christmas lights and hanging them on a clothesline outside.

Dusting the furniture for Amelia Bedelia involves pouring buckets of dust on everything!

Changing the towels in the bathroom for Amelia Bedelia involves taking a pair of scissors and cutting the towels enough so that they resemble something different.

Drawing the drapes when the sun comes in means that she takes out a notepad and sketches a picture of the curtains.

Dressing the chicken for dinner for Amelia means that she actually  puts clothes on the chicken!

I kid you not, Amelia Bedelia really was that...literal.

Amazingly enough, Mrs. Rogers failed to see the humour in the situation, and was about ready to fire her.  Luckily for her, Amelia Bedelia could make a mean lemon meringue pie, and once Mrs. Rogers sampled it, her sour disposition turned sweet, and Amelia Bedelia was allowed to stay!

This was a recurring theme throughout each book of the Amelia Bedelia series.  Amelia Bedelia screws everything up, the Rogers family gets mad, she bakes them cookies, pies, and cakes, and all is forgiven.

Which then leads to the question...why didn’t Amelia Bedelia just open up a bakery?

Would you believe that since 1963, there have been thirty-six books featuring her published, with another three books due out sometime next year?  That’s quite an accomplishment.  Sadly, Peggy Parish passed away on November 19, 1988 shortly after the release of “Amelia Bedelia’s Family Album” (which is kind of freaky since I was introduced to Amelia Bedelia in the second grade, which for me was the 1988/1989 school year). 
Luckily, her nephew, Herman Parish took over the Amelia Bedelia franchise beginning with 1995’s “Good Driving, Amelia Bedelia”, and has penned the serial ever since.  Lynn Sweat, the current illustrator of the book series, has been drawing Amelia Bedelia since the mid-1970s.

There have been so many Amelia Bedelia books that I have read, and it was really hard to choose my favourite.  “Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping” was a fantastic book filled with lots of humour, and “Amelia Bedelia and the Baby” was filled with side-splitting laughs.

But of all the books that have featured Amelia Bedelia, I have to admit that I was always partial to “Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia”, because of the fantastic sight gags, and seeing Amelia Bedelia celebrate Christmas in her own way.  Who else would hang tennis balls, baseballs, and billiard balls on a Christmas tree?  Who else would put a mirror on the top of the tree so that everyone could be the “star” of the tree?  Who else would invite every girl in the neighbourhood named Carol for Christmas Carols?  Who else would cut up a calendar and bake them into a “date cake”?

Only our Amelia Bedelia.

And here’s one final piece of interesting trivia before we sign off on this blog entry.  Apparently, Peggy Parish’s contributions to children’s literature did not go unnoticed in her hometown of Manning, South Carolina.  If one were to go visit this town, they might be surprised to see a special monument dedicated to her.

A statue of Amelia Bedelia.

Now, that’s how you honour someone!

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