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Literature / Amelia Bedelia

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She does exactly what you tell her to do — so be careful what you say.

Amelia Bedelia is a series of American children's books featuring the title character, an extremely Literal-Minded housekeeper whose failure to understand basic English metaphors leads to much of the comedy of the series. The series was written by Peggy Parish until her death in 1988, and by her nephew Herman Parish beginning in 1995. The books have been illustrated by Wallace Tripp, Fritz Siebel, and Lynn Sweat, the current illustrator.

More recently, the series has had a number of prequel books featuring the young Amelia Bedelia as a schoolgirl. These are written by Parish also, but illustrated by Lynne Avril. In 2019, a new chapter book series was started entitled Amelia Bedelia & Friends. These essentially follow the same basic style as the young Amelia Bedelia chapter books, but as the title implies feature a greater emphasis on Amelia Bedelia's friends.

Books in this series:

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     By Peggy Parish 
  • Amelia Bedelia (1963)
  • Thank You, Amelia Bedelia (1964)
  • Amelia Bedelia and the Surprise Shower (1966)
  • Come Back, Amelia Bedelia (1971)
  • Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia (1972)
  • Good Work, Amelia Bedelia (1976)
  • Teach Us, Amelia Bedelia (1977)
  • Amelia Bedelia Helps Out (1979)
  • Amelia Bedelia and the Baby (1981)
  • Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping (1985)
  • Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia (1986)
  • Amelia Bedelia's Family Album (1988)

     By Herman Parish 
  • Good Driving, Amelia Bedelia (1995)
  • Bravo, Amelia Bedelia! (1997)
  • Amelia Bedelia 4 Mayor (1999)
  • Calling Doctor Amelia Bedelia (2002)
  • Amelia Bedelia and the Christmas List (2003)
  • Amelia Bedelia, Bookworm (2003)
  • Happy Haunting, Amelia Bedelia (2004)
  • Amelia Bedelia Goes Back to School (2004)
  • Be My Valentine, Amelia Bedelia (2004)
  • Amelia Bedelia, Rocket Scientist? (2005)
  • Amelia Bedelia's Masterpiece (2007)
  • Amelia Bedelia Under Construction (2007)
  • Amelia Bedelia and the Cat (2008)
  • Go West, Amelia Bedelia! (2012)
  • Amelia Bedelia, Cub Reporter (2012)

    Young Amelia Bedelia, by Herman Parish 
  • Amelia Bedelia's First Day of School (2009)
  • Amelia Bedelia's First Valentine (2009)
  • Amelia Bedelia Makes a Friend (2011)
  • Amelia Bedelia's First Apple Pie (2012)
  • Amelia Bedelia's First Vote (2012)
  • Amelia Bedelia Sleeps Over (2012)
  • Amelia Bedelia Means Business (2013, chapter book)
  • Amelia Bedelia Unleashed (2013, chapter book)
  • Amelia Bedelia Hits the Trail (2013)
  • Amelia Bedelia's First Library Card (May 2013)
  • Amelia Bedelia Road Trip! (August 2013, chapter book)
  • Amelia Bedelia Tries Her Luck (August 2013)
  • Amelia Bedelia's First Field Trip (December 2013)
  • Amelia Bedelia Joins the Club (February 2014)
  • Amelia Bedelia Goes Wild! (March 2014, chapter book)
  • Amelia Bedelia Chalks One Up (August 2014)
  • Amelia Bedelia Shapes Up (August 2014, chapter book)
  • Amelia Bedelia Takes the Cake (2016)
  • Amelia Bedelia Makes a Splash (2017, chapter book)
  • Amelia Bedelia Digs In (2018, chapter book)
  • Special Edition Holiday: Amelia Bedelia Wraps It Up (September 2020, chapter book)
  • Special Edition Holiday: Amelia Bedelia Scared Silly (July 2021, chapter book)
  • Special Edition Holiday: Amelia Bedelia Hops To It (February 2022, chapter book)

    Amelia Bedelia & Friends chapter books, by Herman Parish 
  • Beat the Clock (September 2019)
  • The Cat's Meow (September 2019)
  • Arise and Shine (March 2020)
  • Paint the Town (September 2020)
  • Mind Their Manners (March 2021)
  • Blast Off! (September 2021)

This book series contains examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: A lot of Amelia's mess-ups cause one - or both - of her employers to laugh out loud.
  • Appetite Equals Health: In "Amelia Bedelia Goes Wild", Amelia is sick with an unknown bug and is given lunch but she has no appetite and only eats a banana.
  • Are We There Yet?: In Amelia Bedelia Road Trip!, when Amelia tries to take charge of the planning of the trip she's told that this is the parents' job and it's the kid's job to ask "Are we there yet?" Later, when she does this, she is told yes, because the trip is an adventure road trip to nowhere in particular, so anywhere they go is there.
  • Aesop Amnesia: The first book states that after Mr. and Mrs. Rogers decided to keep Amelia Bedelia as their maid, Mrs. Rogers learned to word her commands in a manner that Amelia Bedelia could understand. Come the second book, Mrs. Rogers asks her to perform such tasks as stripping bedsheets and removing spots from a dress.note  Then again, the first story didn't say exactly how long it took Mrs. Rogers to grasp Amelia Bedelia's way of understanding others.
  • Baseball Episode: Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia has Amelia Bedelia joining a baseball team for a game.
  • Black Comedy: In the Young Amelia Bedelia chapter book Amelia Bedelia Makes a Splash, Amelia Bedelia meets a woman who attended summer camp with her mother named Mrs. Evans, who is a widow. Unfortunately, she and the other characters make the mistake of referring to her husband being dead using only euphemisms. Amelia Bedelia variously hears "I wish my husband, Harold, was here," "my late husband... really late," "her husband expired," "is no longer with us. He has departed" and "I lost him more than twenty years ago." Amelia Bedelia, not properly following any of this, at one point tries to order a spaghetti dinner for her husband, who she thinks is literally just "late." Finally, Mrs. Evans asks her "Do you understand my husband died?" and a rather embarrassed Amelia Bedelia says that she's sorry and has to leave the room for a moment, and also cancel the spaghetti dinner.
  • Brick Joke: After Amelia Bedelia "completes" a command, it usually takes several more pages before someone reacts to the results.
  • Butt-Monkey: Amelia Bedelia's nephew Ollie catches everything, including diseases.
  • Calvinball: When Amelia Bedelia becomes a substitute teacher, some math problems she reads describe the students taking each other's apples. After they admit that they didn't bring any apples to school, she brings the kids to the Rogerses' house, gives one team some apples, and tells the other team to try and take them. Since she only read one of the math problems aloud before starting this game, the takers grab as many apples as they can find, while the other team uses any means necessary to solve the "problem" of losing them.
  • Canine Companion: In her childhood, Amelia Bedelia had a dog named Finally who she was very close to.
  • Chickenpox Episode: Downplayed; at the end of Calling Doctor Amelia Bedelia, it's revealed Mr. Rogers (who had a headache earlier) has chicken pox. He eats some chicken soup and remarks that it "hit the spot," and Amelia tries to figure out which of his spots it hit.
  • Circling Birdies: In Amelia Bedelia Digs In, Amelia's father bonks his head and says that he's seeing stars. Amelia Bedelia doesn't understand, so he explains "stars like in the cartoons."
    Amelia: So right this minute, little planets and chirping birds are circling your head?
    Alice: (Amelia's friend) Ouch! That must hurt.
    Amelia's father: Tell me about it.
    Amelia: She just did.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander:
    • Amelia Bedelia herself, due to being literal-minded.
    • Amelia's uncle Albert spends all his time collecting large games.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Most of the humor comes from Amelia Bedelia committing this, even when someone tries to correct her.
  • Continuity Nod: The second Young Amelia Bedelia chapter book, Amelia Bedelia Unleashed, is full of this, including friends Amelia Bedelia made in the first one and people that recognize her from TV or otherwise from seeing her throughout town.
  • Covers Always Lie: "Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia" shows her in a traditional-looking Christmas setting, complete with Santa Claus peeking in the window. In the book proper, she stuffs stockings with turkey stuffing, and decorates the tree with such unconventional ornaments as colored balls from a sporting goods store. Even when she meets Santa Claus at the end, he just seems like Mr. Rogers in a Santa suit.
  • Death Glare: Amelia Bedelia's mother is capable of one.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Readers accustomed to Lynn Sweat's character designs (seen in almost all of the books written since 1976) might find it jarring to read a book illustrated by one of his predecessors, especially if it shows Amelia Bedelia with no stockings and/or Mr. and Mrs. Rogers with gray hair instead of brown. The first book also portrays Mr. and Mrs. Rogers as a wealthy couple with a mansion, while later books inexplicably relocate them to the suburbs.
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: Amelia Bedelia and the Surprise Shower has everyone spending the last few pages in laughter, pausing only for tea and cupcakes.
  • Friendly Tickle Torture
    • Amelia and her parents engage in this in the Young Amelia Bedelia chapter book Amelia Bedelia Road Trip!
    • Towards the end of another Young Amelia Bedelia chapter book, "Amelia Bedelia Makes a Splash", her new friends at summer camp do this to her, and it only gets worse when her father tells them that she's ticklish on her neck and her mother suggests doing it behind her ears. Then, when she shouts for "mercy," a girl named Annette claims that she's been teaching her French and what she's really saying is "merci," which is French for "Thank you."
    • In the Young Amelia Bedelia picture book, Amelia Bedelia's First Day of School, her teacher tells the class "Try wiggling your fingers on that clay," so she does just that on one of her classmates who is named "Clay" until he starts laughing so hard he can't stop.
  • Funny Phone Misunderstanding: Sometimes happens because the title character is Literal-Minded:
    • In "Amelia Bedelia and the Cat", Amelia ends up on the phone with a vegetarian zookeeper named Mr. Lyon. She thinks he's a lion, and when she says that he can't be a vegetarian as he's a lion, he thinks she's accusing him of lying.
    • Several in "Calling Doctor Amelia Bedelia" that eventually lead to the people getting offended and forming an angry mob:
      • One woman says over the phone that she has hives. Amelia naturally assumes she means beehives and says, "I bet you have honey." The woman responds with "Don't call me honey!"
      • One man complains of being "hoarse", "sick as a dog", and having "a frog in his throat", so Amelia suggests calling the vet.
      • One man says that his nose hurts on the bridge. Amelia replies that he must get off that bridge, then.
  • Full-Name Basis: She doesn't like to be called "Amelia," she prefers her full name. The narration also refers to her consistently as "Amelia Bedelia."
  • Genius Ditz: For all her linguistic failings, Ms. Bedelia is a phenomenal cook.
  • Girls Love Stuffed Animals: In Amelia Bedelia Under the Weather, when Amelia Bedelia isn't feeling well, she snuggles in bed with a whole menagerie of stuffed animals. These include a monkey, a beaver, a dog, a panda, a wolf, a llama and a teddy bear.
  • Grossout Fakeout: In one book, characters make foods with gross-sounding names that are actually fine. These include "ears" (actually dried apricots), "kitty litter cake" (actually made with crumbled-up cookies), and "eyeballs" (actually peeled grapes).
  • Imagine Spot: Sometimes Amelia Bedelia thinks of a visual depiction of a metaphor (eg, voters sitting on a fence, cats and dogs falling from the sky like rain).
  • Injured Limb Episode: In one of the books set in the past, "Amelia Bedelia Dances Off", Dana the dance teacher ends up breaking her leg in two places.
  • Insult Backfire:
    • "Go jump in a lake"? She already did that while "catching a fish" with her hands.
    • Telling Amelia Bedelia, "Oh, go fly a kite!" doesn't upset her, since she finds kite-flying relaxing.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Amelia Bedelia is a perfectly kind and hardworking woman who does her absolute best to follow instructions to the letter, and makes her boss a pie out of nothing but the goodness of her heart. If it weren’t for her being so Literal-Minded, she’d likely be a perfect maid.
  • It Runs in the Family: Amelia Bedelia's Family Album reveals that Amelia Bedelia has plenty of relatives who also take things too literally. Some relatives seen in other books don't have this tendency, but she helps them adopt it.
  • Literal-Minded: The series' main Running Gag is how Amelia herself takes everything she hears literally.
    • From the first book, she interprets "draw the drapes" as "draw a picture of the drapes", "trim the steak" as "put lace ribbons on the steak", "put out the lights" as "hang the lightbulbs outside on a clothesline" and "dress the chicken as "put clothes on the chicken".
    • Amelia also provides the trope picture, interpreting "It's raining cats and dogs" as cats and dogs actually raining out of the sky.
  • Long-Runner Tech Marches On: It seems as if there is no longer any attempt being made with the young Amelia Bedelia books to try to pretend as though they're set in the time period that would actually fit the Amelia Bedelia seen in the original books. Amelia Bedelia on the Job shows Amelia Bedelia's father working on a laptop, even though personal computers didn't even exist during the 1960s time period in which the books with the adult Amelia Bedelia were first published. Additionally, "Amelia Bedelia's First Library Card" depicts a clearly modern library.
  • Mathematician's Answer: In the chapter book Amelia Bedelia & Friends Mind Their Manners, Amelia Bedelia's teacher Mrs. Shauk asks "Amelia Bedelia, can you come to the front of the room, please?" "Yes, I can," replies Amelia Bedelia, thinking that even though her desk in the last row, her legs work just fine. She then sits up straight in her chair, smiling. Mrs. Shauk, used to the workings of Amelia Bedelia's mind, smiles, shakes her head and sighs, then directs her "Amelia Bedelia, would you walk to the front of the room, and stand next to me?" and Amelia Bedelia does.
  • "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: In the Young Amelia Bedelia book Amelia Bedelia Hops To It, when Amelia tells the veterinarian Dr. Wiggins that she's devoted to her puppies, Wiggins agrees that dedication is her middle name. Naturally, Amelia's response is "It is?"
  • Mister Strangenoun: Amelia Bedelia's dog she had as a kid is called Finally.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: In "Amelia Bedelia Makes a Splash", Amelia says, "Oh, great" in the snark sense. Coming from someone who is very literal-minded (and will grow up to not have a cheeky bone in her body), this is very out-of-character.
  • Out Sick:
    • In one of the young Amelia Bedelia books, Amelia gets inspired to start her own zoo because she missed a trip to the zoo due to being sick.
    • In another one of the younger Amelia Bedelia books, a girl is home sick from school and can't vote in the class election.
  • Protagonist and Friends: In September 2019, the Amelia Bedelia & Friends chapter books series was introduced, which basically follows the same style as the young Amelia Bedelia chapter books, but with a greater emphasis on Amelia Bedelia's friends, as the title implies.
  • Pungeon Master: Amelia's father, much to her embarrassment, at least at first— some of his puns turn out to have an unexpected truth to them.
  • Rhyming Names: Amelia Bedelia. The narrative likes to reinforce this rhyming convention using her full name all the time. Amelia herself prefers to be called using her full name rather than just "Amelia".
  • Siblings Wanted: Before her brother Ike was born, Amelia Bedelia has sometimes wished she had a sibling.
  • Speech Bubbles: Sometimes dialogue balloons appear in the Herman Parish/Lynn Sweat books.
  • Spit Take: Amelia Bedelia's mother does this in "Amelia Bedelia Unleashed", one of the Young Amelia Bedelia chapter books, after Amelia Bedelia suggests that she could have twins.
  • Supreme Chef: Amelia can work her way out of any situation with her aforementioned fantastic cooking.
  • Talking in Your Sleep: In the Young Amelia Bedelia book Amelia Bedelia Makes a Splash, Amelia Bedelia is alone on a bus to a summer camp she doesn't really want to go when she is joined by a girl named Alice who has just been picked up by the bus. Alice is very amicable and they quickly strike up a conversation, though Alice does most of the talking. Eventually Amelia Bedelia falls asleep not out of boredom but simply exhaustion because among other things she's tired from crying. When she wakes up, after sleeping for four hours, Alice asks if she knows that she talks in her sleep. Whatever Amelia Bedelia was saying must have been pretty specific because Alice asks "Who's Finally?" which is the name of Amelia Bedelia's dog, but she couldn't have known that "Finally" was a "who" and not a "what" simply from hearing the name.
  • Timmy in a Well: In Amelia Bedelia Digs In, Amelia Bedelia falls into the remains of an old pirate vessel. She shouts for help and her dog, Finally, is first to find her. She asks her to go get help, but she just stands there digging. She makes an on-the-spot resolution to watch more old movies with her once she gets out.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Amelia screws up basically every order she's given, often in incredibly stupid ways, and she still keeps her job (see Supreme Chef).
    • In the first book, Amelia Bedelia spent the whole day screwing up her chores, but then she baked this insanely delicious lemon meringue pie, and that caused her employers to forgive her earlier mistakes. Yes, apparently her cooking is that good.
    • Amelia did lose her housekeeping job once, giving her opportunities to misunderstand several others, such as hairdresser, where she pins up a lady's hair with safety pins, but in the end she's welcomed back with open arms.
  • Uncertain Doom: We never see Finally in the books set in the present, but we don't know if she's dead or just very elderly. This applies to the other animals in the "Young Amelia Bedelia" series.
  • Unmanly Secret: In Amelia Bedelia and Friends Mind Their Manners, one of the Young Amelia Bedelia chapter books, Amelia Bedelia and her friends get a drill sergeant as a substitute teacher... who is highly embarrassed one morning when Amelia Bedelia walks in on him eating a donut with sprinkles.
  • Visual Pun: A stock-in-trade of the series, and largely a result of Amelia Bedelia's Literal-Minded tendencies.
  • Your Other Left:
    • "Do I turn left?"/"Right" occurs in Good Driving, Amelia Bedelia. Mr. Rogers ends up talking himself into circles explaining that "left is right" and "right is wrong". Eventually, he says "bear left" and Amelia turns right to avoid the bear. He tries to explain her mistake, but she doesn't quite get it: "Oh, if I'd known the bear left, I wouldn't have turned right."
    • In the Amelia Bedelia & Friends book Beat the Clock, Amelia Bedelia's friend Joy tells her to take one step to the right. She promptly takes a step and is told by Joy "I meant to your right." Amelia Bedelia responds "Right! I like being right." Joy tells her "more to the right," but she still doesn't get it, resulting in Joy taking her hand pulling her to the correct position.
  • Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: In the Young Amelia Bedelia book, Amelia Bedelia Gets a Break, Amelia Bedelia cares for her class's pet hamster, Harry, during a school break. Harry escapes from his cage and takes up residence in Amelia Bedelia's dollhouse. Amelia Bedelia and her classmates find the hamster there with six babies and rename her Harriet.