Herman Parrish – Amelia Bedelia Chapter Book Series

The Amelia Bedelia chapter book series is a spin off written by Herman Parrish based on the character created by his aunt Peggy Parrish in the 1960s. While the original features Amelia Bedelia as an adult, Herman Parrish’s series places an approximately 10-year-old Amelia Bedelia in a current-day setting and explores school and small-town life in general through her eyes. Amelia Bedelia might not be one of the “cool” kids, but she always somehow manages to pull off the most spectacular wins when it counts. As the child who takes everything literally, hilarity ensues whenever she comes up against an idiom she hasn’t met before (and with a father who peppers his conversation with them, there is plenty of confusion to add to the laughs).

Amelia Bedelia Means Business

When she decides she needs to make some money to afford a new bike, Amelia Bedelia starts with the traditional route of getting a job in a diner. When a customer in a hurry tells her to step on it, Amelia Bedelia’s literal attention to detail results in her losing her job. Amelia Bedelia commiserates with another out-of-work woman she meets in the park and they encourage each other to start their own businesses – Amelia Bedelia selling lemonade and then lemon tarts, Diana becoming a dog walker. Amelia Bedelia goes through many more escapades and misunderstandings before her success sees her hiring an unexpected employee.

Amelia Bedelia Means Business is rich with a variety of female characters who all have positive influence and input in Amelia Bedelia’s venture. From Doris the waitress to Diana the dog walker, and never-give-up Amelia Bedelia, herself, there is so much to love here. My only frustration with these books is that Amelia Bedelia’s parents have no names, which makes them flat caricatures (they are uncannily reminiscent of Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig from the kids’ TV show Peppa Pig).

Amelia Bedelia Unleashed

Amelia Bedelia wants a pet – perhaps a dog? But what type of dog? Her friend Diana the dog walker is the perfect person to help her decide and Amelia Bedelia takes a whole bunch of dogs for a test walk… Make that the most amazing accidental skateboarding loop-di-loop ever pulled off (well, pulled by a large poodle, actually) that impresses even the toughest skateboarding critic. Amelia Bedelia’s feat elevates her friend Charlie, the owner of the poodle, to ‘cool’ status for the first time in his life. But there’s another side to Pierre the poodle the two friends would like to show off, and they’ll get their chance at the annual dog show.

Amelia Bedelia’s friendship with Charlie is nicely developed in this book and doesn’t fall back on the frustrating cliché of “tomboy” girl paired with gentle boy. Amelia Bedelia is just Amelia Bedelia, and she’s friends with Charlie because he’s a decent kid and they have a common interest. Just like real life kids. Also, in upcoming books, Amelia Bedelia does develop strong friendships with other girls.

Amelia Bedelia’s Road Trip

Amelia Bedelia and her parents take a road trip, and Amelia Bedelia makes friends with Audrey, a teenager who loves to fish (and owns a rowing boat). Audrey eagerly teaches Amelia Bedelia everything she can, and together they enter a fishing competition using their combined skills in surprising ways.

Amelia Bedelia Goes Wild

When Amelia Bedelia has to miss out on her class’s excursion to the zoo, she decides to open her own zoo in her garden. Amelia Bedelia’s classmates shine in this book as they try to cheer up their friend.

Amelia Bedelia Shapes Up

Amelia Bedelia’s class are learning about the Olympic Games of Ancient Greece, and Amelia Bedelia is disappointed that she’s not the best at any of a variety of sports. Then her PE teacher makes a surprising announcement.

Unfortunately Shapes Up serves up the cliché of Amelia Bedelia being picked last because she’s clumsy and not good at sports, which is disappointing following Goes Wild where her quirkiness is shown to be endearing to her classmates.

Amelia Bedelia Cleans Up

Amelia Bedelia’s friendships with Heather and Holly develop in this book, as the three of them decide to clear out a vacant lot so they can build a cubby house in a large tree on the property. They do such a great job tidying up, though, that the property becomes desirable and it’s only when they befriend the enigmatic retired traveller, Miss West, that they are able to save their lot from being sold to developers.

Cleans Up returns to the brilliance of the first book, with interesting female characters and a storyline where three girls are able to solve a problem by themselves.

Amelia Bedelia Sets Sail

I would have liked the trio from Cleans Up to continue, but Book 7 sends Amelia Bedelia off on holiday to the seaside, their family staying with her Aunt Mary (a dynamic single mother) and cousin Jason. Amelia Bedelia and Jason befriend an older girl called Pearl, who captains her own sail boat (another inspiring female character, although she is extremely similar to Audrey from Road Trip).

Amelia Bedelia Dances Off

While Aunt Mary from Sets Sail is Amelia Bedelia’s mother’s sister, this time it’s her father’s sister, Wanda, who kicks off the story by organising dance lessons as a birthday present for Amelia Bedelia. The problem is Amelia Bedelia doesn’t want to learn to dance; she wanted a drum kit. However, the dance lessons prove to be an enormous amount of fun as the instructor intends to run through a different dance style each week. But when the dance instructor injures herself, the dance class have to look elsewhere for teachers, and they find them in the most unexpected people.

Amelia Bedelia On the Job

Amelia Bedelia and her class are exploring careers and end up spending a day at Amelia Bedelia’s dad’s work (her parents still don’t have names). Although Amelia Bedelia’s mother is a SAHM, in this book it’s revealed that she has invented a tasty salad dressing that has been licenced by a big company, and Amelia Bedelia’s class get to work on the advertising copy.

Amelia Bedelia Ties the Knot

I skipped this one with the kids because of the romance and marriage storyline. The blurb indicates that Amelia Bedelia’s Aunt Mary (introduced as a single mother in Amelia Bedelia Sets Sail) will be marrying Metal-Man Bob, and Amelia Bedelia is to be a flower-girl at their beach wedding. The opening chapter features Mary trying to draw the other characters’ attention to the flashy diamond ring on her finger, while the other characters teasingly pretend not to notice it.

Amelia Bedelia Makes a Splash

Amelia Bedelia’s mother learns that the all-girls camp she loved attending as a young girl is about to close, so she organises for Amelia Bedelia to experience the very last summer program. I have mixed feelings about this book, as the camp lasts more than fifty days, and Amelia Bedelia is heavily pressured into agreeing – to the point of tears. Of course, her mother is proved right when Amelia Bedelia begins to love camp and reminiscent of Elizabeth Allen in Enid Blyton’s Naughtiest Girl in the School chooses to stay even though she is given the choice to return home at the half-way point.

The girls are taught useful skills such as how to make a camp fire and navigate using the stars, but have to put up with strict rules regarding uniforms and schedules. When her parents come to collect her, Amelia Bedelia’s mother turns out to be rather good at archery, in a very Mummy-Pig/Daddy-Pig scene where Amelia Bedelia’s father tries to outdo his wife and doesn’t hit the target – but does lead to a more “humerus” discovery .

There is a reference early in the book to the family reciting a religious “grace” at their meal.

Amelia Bedelia Digs In

Amelia Bedelia and her family, and Amelia Bedelia’s new best friend from camp – Alice – join Mary and her new husband Bob, and Mary’s son Jason for a holiday at their new home on Blackberry Island. Since this is former pirate territory, it’s time to stumble on some buried treasure.

This book features an illustrated scene of the family with heads bowed while saying “grace” before a meal.

Stella by the Sea

Stella by the Sea by Ruth Starke is a simple and lovely story of friendship and community. After a vivid dream that seems to match exactly, schoolgirl Stella responds to an advertisement for a cubbyhouse for sale. The only problem is she has nowhere to put it – she lives in a penthouse apartment with no backyard. So, being the daughter of a real estate superstar, Stella considers her options and offers to rent the cubbyhouse instead. While her elderly landlord initially seems gruff, Stella soon discovers that Chester is a real old softy – a retired pastry chef who loves baking but doesn’t see the point in “baking for one”. And another perk of renting a patch of Chester’s backyard comes in the form of the neighbours’ pets – one by one Stella begins a dog-walking and cat-minding business. Soon she has befriended a number of people in the area and she connects them with the reticent Chester by throwing herself a cubbyhouse-warming party. Chester now has plenty of baking requests, and in return his neighbours take care of him: free hair cuts, lawn mowing, companionship. But progress and development, and growing old, threaten their idyllic little set up. Chester has some hard bargaining to do if he’s going to do right by his young tenant.

Nooks and Crannies

Nooks and Crannies is an adorable Edwardian murder mystery by Jessica Lawson. Tabitha Crum is one of the sweetest heroines you’ll come across – she’ll simultaneously capture your heart and break it as she tries so desperately to earn the love of her cruel and heartless parents. Luckily for Tabitha she discovers that she was adopted and now she has a chance to inherit a fortune – if she turns out to be the true heir of the Countess of Windermere. But first there are a few problems to overcome at the Countess’s manor house: five other children who could potentially be the true heir, the suspicious death of the one person who might have been able to identify the correct child, the matter of ghostly noises and weird happenings, and something else Tabitha can’t quite put her finger on. Continue reading “Nooks and Crannies”

The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones

The fascinating thing about The Islands of Chaldea is not that it is Diana Wynne Jones’s last book but that she died with it unfinished and it was completed and published posthumously. DWJ’s younger sister Ursula has given fans an extraordinary gift by seamlessly integrating an ending to the unfinished manuscript. We will never know if it is the ending Diana would’ve written – because she left no clues, no notes, and an entire committee of family and friends brainstorming for hours could not figure out what she might have intended for the story. Nevertheless, Ursula’s ending is fitting and satisfying and a wonderful tribute to Diana’s memory and the power of sisterhood. Continue reading “The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones”

The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

The Map to Everywhere is the first collaboration between husband and wife authors Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis and utilises the increasingly popular format of alternating chapters told by a boy-girl pair of main characters. They may have missed a golden opportunity here to make their characters two girls to fill in the dearth of female-friendship adventure stories for this age group. In addition, it is the male character’s point of view that opens the book, granting him the lead by default. Other than that quibble this book is a superbly-crafted adventure story with only a very few of the annoying clichés you might anticipate –

The first being that most of the chapters in the book don’t pass the Bechdel test for the simple reason that Marrill is the only female character for large swathes of the story. Even her cat is male. However, it is a story with a small cast: Fin, Marrill, Ardent the wizard, and Coll the ship’s captain. And the book certainly passes the Mako Mori test. Continue reading “The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis”

The Turnkey by Allison Rushby

This is delightful, though probably best for readers about 10+ because it’s set during WW2 and, while not graphic, it features air raids and the deaths, injuries, and destruction they caused. It deals with death in a sweetly reassuring and semi-secular-fantasy way: the dead are described as being peacefully at rest with their loved ones enjoying a long, pleasant dream. Ghosts rise when something disturbs the interred body, but most ghosts do not leave the cemetery where they are buried. Continue reading “The Turnkey by Allison Rushby”