NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Students at North Plainfield's East End Elementary School received a very special visit on April 8 from Herman Parish, current author of the popular Amelia Bedelia books. Parish spoke with students during two, hour-long morning assemblies and held a book signing in the school's library in the afternoon.
"This was a wonderful opportunity for our students,” said Principal John Ferguson. “The students got to hear from a very popular author who they are familiar with and who will inspire them to reading and start writing themselves."
The late Peggy Parish first brought the title character of Amelia Bedelia – a housekeeper who constantly misunderstands and incorrectly performs her employer’s requests because she always takes figures of speech and various terms literally – to life back in 1963.
Over the years, Peggy Parish’s Amelia Bedelia series grew to comprise 12 books and she also authored 15 other books, including a six-book children's mystery series. In 1988, Amelia Bedelia celebrated its 25th anniversary and, that same year, Peggy Parish passed away. While other children’s authors reached out to the family in the hopes of continuing the series, it was the late author’s nephew wanted who looked to keep the beloved character in the family.
"I figured before it left the family I would give it a try,” said Parish, who prior to taking on a career as a children's author worked in marketing and had some writing experience.
Parish published his first Amelia Bedelia book, “Good Driving, Amelia Bedelia,” in 1995 and, over the past 21 years, has kept the character alive through dozens of picture books, beginner readers and chapter books. The Amelia Bedelia Parish’s aunt created has also changed since he began writing the books and these days, fans can follow a much younger, but still very literal Amelia Bedelia.
In 2013, Amelia Bedelia celebrated its 50th anniversary and during Parish’s presentation, East End students learned more about the original author. Parish told the students how the main character was based on a housekeeper Peggy Parish's own grandparents had when she was a child, with the employers in the book - Mr. & Mrs. Rogers - based on those same grandparents.
"She was very good with the children but she wasn't a very good housekeeper," Parish told the students, noting how Amelia Bedelia literally ‘dressed a chicken,’ ‘dusted the furniture’ and ‘put out the lights’ and how she always had her purse with her – just like his aunt – no matter what she was doing.
East End students were also treated to a special visit from Amelia Bedelia, portrayed by East End’s own librarian Allison Longley, and Parish took time to answer questions, discuss the writing and illustration process and sign copies of his latest books.
“My aunt always thought you should read what you like to read," Parish told the students. "If you like what you read you will grow up and continue to read.”
Herman Parish currently resides in Princeton with his family. His newest chapter book, Amelia Bedelia on the Job, came out in March and Amelia Bedelia Ties the Knot will hit bookshelves this summer. For more information on Amelia Bedelia, including available books, as well as for information on both Herman Parish and Peggy Parish, visit http://www.ameliabedeliabooks.com.
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