I haven’t reviewed a picture book in a while– I’ve been too busy READING (not to mention WRITING) them. In my quest to read more “episodic” (and less narrative) picture books, I’ve been on a library tear lately. Well, don’t you know one of those books is a CLASSIC of the highest degree. Yes, you can see the name in the headline here– it’s Eloise, which was first introduced waaaaay before I was born in 1955. (The scary thing is it was only a handful of years before I was born. Well, a handful plus one, that is. ;-) ) Funny how the ’50’s seemed like ancient times when I was a little kid. Ha!
Anyway, after thoroughly enjoying this VERY lengthy picture book (compared to the current picture book standard, that is), I thought I’d like to review it… but then thought, “Nah, it’s been done before for Perfect Picture Book Friday.” Well, imagine my surprise when I tried to look it up on the PPBF page on Susanna Leonard Hill’s amazing website and… didn’t find it. Yay!
So here is my long overdue review of a classic 58-year old, 3,445 word picture book. I never read it as a kid as far as I can recall, but it really is a timeless book. Not really a story as much as it is a pitch-perfect character study of a feisty, mischievous and hilarious little girl. A must-read!
Written by: Kay Thompson
Illustrated by: Hilary Knight
Simon and Schuster, 1955
I tried to find out if Eloise had won any awards, but couldn’t. This book is highly-acclaimed, however. It’s considered a classic in the true sense.
Themes/Topics: There’s no obvious built-in theme like there is with many of today’s books. If you were to try and label it with a theme, though, I suppose you can say that this is what happens when a little girl is left to her own devices in a posh hotel with only servants to look after her?
Suitable for: Ages 4 and up
I am a city child
I live at The Plaza
There is a lobby which is enormously large
with marble pillars and ladies in it and a revolving
door with “P” on it
Other Great Lines:
Nanny is my nurse
She wears tissue paper in her dress
and you can hear it
She is English and has 8 hairpins
made out of bones
She says that’s all she needs in
this life for Lord’s sake
Nanny says she would rawther I didn’t
talk talk talk all the time
She always says everything 3 times
like Eloise you cawn’t cawn’t cawn’t
Sometimes I hit her on the ankle with a tassel
She is my mostly companion
Brief Synopsis (from Amazon on an expanded edition and written in the editorial style of the book):
love love love
cawn’t cawn’t cawn’t
get enough of her
then you simply
Links to Resources: Eloise has a website! It’s here. Even though you never felt like Eloise was in danger (this WAS written in the ’50’s, after all– pretty much a time of innocence, at least it seemed that way), this story can spark some good safety discussion points with your children, such as, “Was it a good idea for Eloise to wander around that hotel every day? Do you think it was safe for her to go up and down the stairs and elevators all the time? Was she good about not talking to strangers? What would you do if you were Eloise?”
Why I Like This Book: I love that it feels like it’s written by a 6-year old. There is not one period (or any kind of punctuation mark, for that matter) in the entire book. And her language is hilarious… you really feel as if you’re seeing this little girl wax philosophic about her innocent (well, maybe not so much) and her exquisite, devil-may-care kind of life. I mean, this girl has no boundaries outside of an “occasional” nanny. She has free rein to run all over the entire hotel. I had no idea how big this book was at one time– the real Plaza still has an illustration of Eloise in their lobby, apparently. And she became a huge sensation with many follow-up books, merchandise, songs… the whole nine yards. She was probably the first “huge” character spawned from a picture book… and why so many publishers today are so character-focused. I don’t know what her sales are to date, but when the 50th anniversary edition of Eloise came out, that number was around 9 million sold. I see on Amazon that those who read it “back then” buy this book for their children and grandchildren even now, as seemingly outdated as it is. (The concepts within it are timeless; however, some of the other things, such as the fact that the nanny smokes and drinks beer in front of Eloise– yikes!– are soooooo 1950’s.) Can you imagine that in a picture book?
Anyway, unique book. Unique story. Unique word count (let me reiterate: over 3,000!). All in all, this is a fun read– don’t miss it if you can get your hands on it.
And don’t miss Perfect Picture Book Friday– see the latest and greatest on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website every Friday.