Herman Parish was in the fourth grade when his aunt, Peggy Parish, wrote the first book about Amelia Bedelia. The lovable, literal-minded housekeeper has been a member of his family ever since. Peggy Parish died in 1988. She would be proud and delighted to know that her nephew is carrying on—for a new generation of readers—the tradition she began years ago. Herman has added sixteen books about the grown-up Amelia Bedelia and five picture books about Amelia Bedelia as a young girl. He has also written four Level-1 I Can Read books about the young Amelia Bedelia, as well as several chapter books in the newly launched series.
In true Amelia Bedelia fashion, I backed into writing about the literal-minded housekeeper.
Amelia Bedelia was created by my aunt, Peggy Parish. In 1988, as Amelia Bedelia celebrated her 25th anniversary, Peggy passed away. Years later, Peggy was still receiving fan mail from children who wondered when the next Amelia Bedelia book would be out. Other children’s book authors volunteered to continue the series, but I felt uneasy about Amelia Bedelia leaving our family. Since I had been in the fourth grade when she first appeared, I had literally grown up with her. So in 1993, I decided to try to write a new Amelia Bedelia adventure. My four sisters and my family were very supportive and encouraged me.
I reread the Amelia Bedelia stories to figure out what made them funny. It made me realize that daily life is full of idiomatic expressions, literalisms, and homophones. It’s amazing that more people don’t get confused—amazing that Amelia Bedelia seems to be the only one!
My first book, Good Driving, Amelia Bedelia, took me a year and a night—a year of thinking and one night of writing. I had been collecting ideas, homonyms, and expressions. Whenever I heard them, I jotted them down: on napkins in restaurants, on my newspaper, and in business meetings. I stockpiled these fragments in a folder until one Sunday night, with my family asleep, I decided that it was now or never. I sat down around ten o’clock and began to write. I was so focused on the story that I finished as the sun came up on Monday morning. Naturally, the story needed revision, but the essence was captured in that all-night writing spree.
I was fortunate that my editor, Susan Hirschman, and the illustrator, Lynn Sweat, had worked with Peggy on many Amelia Bedelia books. That helped make the transition from Peggy’s books to mine as seamless as possible.
I have since added many more books to the series. Amelia Bedelia has celebrated her 50th birthday and is still going strong. In fact, as I have grown older, Amelia Bedelia has gotten younger. Fans can now follow her misadventures as a young girl in picture books, beginning readers, and chapter books. She is little, but she is as literal as ever.
I feel very lucky to be writing Amelia Bedelia books and continuing a family tradition. But for me, the best reward was when a child wrote Peggy Parish a fan letter. It said that Good Driving, Amelia Bedelia was the best book she had written. For a reader to say that about my first book was the highest compliment I could hope for.
Herman Parish lives with his family in Princeton, New Jersey.