Saturday, June 22, 2013

Book Review: Happy Haunting, Amelia Bedelia by Herman Parish

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Fun non-scary Halloween story for young readers
Cons: Not much having to do with classic Amelia Bedelia humor
The Bottom Line
Halloween story
Lacking classic Amelia
Literal humor

Maybe Amelia Bedelia is Haunted by Memories of the Classic Books

Since my brother is seven years younger than I am, I remember some of the picture books we read him quite well.  Among the favorite series was Amelia Bedelia, a series about a maid who always took any instructions literally, which results in some well-dressed chickens and stamped letters.  The books were predictable but always lots of fun, especially for people who love plays on words.

I was aware that the series was still continuing, but written by Herman Parish, nephew of original author Peggy Parish.  I hadn't bothered to try to read any of these books, but while I was killing time in a bookstore this weekend (a lovely place to kill time), I spotted Happy Haunting, Amelia Bedelia in a display of Halloween related books.  I picked it up to catch up with my favorite maid, only to be disappointed by the book.

It's Halloween, and the Rodgers are getting ready to host a fun Halloween party complete with spooky decorations and a costume contest.  Their maid, Amelia Bedelia is all ready to help out.  In fact, she's been helping with costumes.  But when Mr. Rodgers says something that offends her, will that put a damper on things or will Mrs. Rodgers help Amelia come up with a plan for revenge.

The thing with this book is that the story could have involved any characters.  Amelia is famous for her literal interpretations of things.  There are really only two cases of that here, plus an involved "Which witch?" misunderstanding.  Yes, the original stories were formulaic, but this one hardly pays any attention to the conventions of the series.  So if, like me, you picked this up expecting puns involving getting ready for a Halloween party, you will be disappointed.

I will say that I appreciated the puns involved in some of the costumes the kids wore to the party.  They were quite clever and almost made up for the lack of literal instructions for Amelia to misunderstand.

The story itself was very nicely told.  There is nothing truly scary here.  The one or two potentially scary moments are actually told in the good illustrations and are so comical and short that I can't imagine anyone being scared by the story.  There are a few good laughs from the story, although I do feel that Mr. Rodgers suffered a bit too much for his comment.  (And Amelia seems a bit too sensitive for that matter.)

This is marked as a level two I Can Read book.  Honestly, I'm not that familiar with the various levels, but this seemed to be made up of words that most kids would know or be able to figure out on their own.  A few words might be too difficult for them on their own initially, but that's how we learn new words, right?

It's not that Happy Haunting, Amelia Bedelia is bad.  But it certainly isn't up to the standards of the classic books in this picture book series.

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