When my granddaughter was reading her mother’s old “Amelia Bedelia” books, I thought I’d play the cool grandfather card by telling her I knew the illustrator. She was suitably impressed. In truth, I only knew him through Instagram, although we had corresponded quite a bit.
When I told him he had given me grandkid “street cred,” Lynn Sweat was delighted.
“That’s a thrilling thing,” he said. “I get that all the time. You know, I’m amazed at the response that kids have, because they grew up with that character. It’s a great thing that happened.”
Amelia Bedelia is a series of books by Peggy Parish that feature the titular maid’s shenanigans as she makes a mess of things, normally by following instructions literally. However, things always work out in the end. It is the silliness of the situations she gets herself in that makes her such a lovable character.
Lynn was the third illustrator involved with the books, following Fritz Siebel and Wallace Tripp, but has worked on more of the series than any other artist. He had worked with Parish on several other books and when Tripp left, she asked Lynn if would step in.
“I said, ‘Sure,’ thinking it was just another job,” he said. “But it was more than just another job because it became very important. Even today, if I play golf and someone finds out I did Amelia Bedelia, they go crazy. It’s amazing.”
For two years after Peggy Parish died, there were no books. Parish’s estate was inherited by her nephew, Herman, a copywriter in New York City. He decided to continue the series.
“It took him a year and a half before it was accepted (by the publisher),” Lynn said. “It was not easy. But once (it) got going, we did quite a few together. So, Amelia kept going, like Mickey Mouse just goes on and on.”
Lynn quit doing the books about five years ago.
“I felt after 30 years, it was time for me to move on,” he said.
When Lynn quit, Herman Parish changed the character to a sixth-grade level.
“The Amelia I did was older, she was like a housemaid,” Lynn said. “So, she’s out there in different forms.”
Lynn, who grew up in Nederland, is an accomplished artist and illustrator, but his name is almost synonymous with the silly housekeeper and her antics — not that he minds. Knowing that his work is still giving pleasure to a new generation of readers is just fine.
“You’re a lucky guy when it happens,” he said.
This story first ran in the July 22, 2022, Art of Living section of the Beaumont Enterprise.