Stories of My Childhood: Amelia’s Notebook

In this series, I explore books that have had a special meaning to me as a kid. It can be any book that tells a story that isn’t a board book, counting/alphabet book, and that is one I remember well. Of course, it should ideally be good too.

What is the book about?

The first book begins when Amelia is getting ready to move to a new house in a new state with her older sister and her mom in fourth grade. She doesn’t want to leave her best friend, Nadia, but there are other fun adventures that wait at her new place. In her notebook, she writes and draws about her time there and new friends. And Amelia isn’t just a writer–she’s an artist and scientist curious about the world.

There are many other books in the series, too. In the sequel, she struggles with a school fire. In another, she corresponds with Nadia and they talk about their dads. When Amelia enters middle school, the books become hardcovers and take on a more linear storyline and deal with subjects such as a mean teacher, gossip, and overnight field trips. Other books are purely entertainment, such as a notebook with boredom busters and another devoted to fortune-telling games.

My favorites had to be Madam Amelia Tells All, Amelia’s Easy-as-Pie Drawing Guide (which actually taught me of all people how to draw some things well!), Amelia’s 6th Grade Notebook, and Amelia’s Family Ties.

How did I discover it?

I was subscribed to American Girl magazine, which used to have a two-page Amelia spread–a mini-story– in every issue. Most of these stories weren’t published elsewhere, but once the feature was retired a book was published that included some of the best stories from the magazine. I bought it, and one thing led to another, and soon I was purchasing other books in the series. It soon became a favorite. Well before that, I think, I bought her Boredom Survival Guide from a school book order.

What I like about the books

They were different! Although they were also good for middle schoolers, it wasn’t a chapter book format–just Amelia’s entries and drawings that combined to form an overall story. They even looked like notebooks with marble covers and lined pages. Amelia was a great artist, too, and her drawings and side notes lined the margins. When she went to Chicago, for example, there was a cow exhibit throughout the city at the time, so she made up little themed cows to draw throughout the notebook.

Just look at these pages. How cool are they? I think these predated Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Dear Dumb Diary, and most other notebook-style stories. I’m not sure if it predated Abby Hayes or not, but either way, this notebook series was arguably the original.

How did the books inspire me?

I tried once or twice to make a notebook of my own, but didn’t get very far. Journaling has always been challenging to keep up with! Fortunately, there was an official notebook you could fill in from the author of the series, and I loved working on that. Of course, I didn’t complete that either.

My thoughts on the books today

I still enjoy them. Looking back, these are very standard issues, but the format is so unique that it never feels like the author is trying to beat you over the head. I don’t know if Marissa Moss is still writing them, but supposedly she also has 7th and 8th grade notebooks. One of them I think involves Amelia wanting to ask a boy to the dance, but it’s my personal prediction that Amelia will eventually come out as bisexual if the books go that far.

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