Kid Lit Dish

Kim's Magical Journey Into the World of Children's Picture Books

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Eloise

on March 8, 2013

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!

ELOISE

eloiseWritten by:  Kay Thompson
Illustrated by: Hilary Knight

Simon and Schuster, 1955 

Awards/Recognition: 
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

Opening Lines:

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): 

If you

love love love

Eloise

(who doesn’t?)

and you

cawn’t cawn’t cawn’t

get enough of her

(who can?)

then you simply

MUST

have this

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 Fridaysee the latest and greatest on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website every Friday.

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12 responses to “Perfect Picture Book Friday: Eloise

  1. Janet Smart says:

    Sounds like a fun book! I love the way the words flow. Thanks!

  2. Fun read, indeed. I love, love, LOVE the television-movie made in the early 2000s, with Julie Andrews as Nanny. She is hilarious. I often wonder if reading Eloise would give kids ideas about being er, free-willed and mischievous…

  3. Wow – 9 MILLION? That’s incredible!

  4. My daughter absolutely loved this series of books. When we visited NYC when she was 8, we had to visit the Plaza. To answer Beth’s question, “No, I don’t think so.” I think kids like to daydream about super heroes like Eloises — and she was that for girls.

  5. I wrote a comment and posted. Don’t know what happened. Hope I’m not posting twice — if so, delete on. My daughter loved Eloise! When we visited to NYC when she was 8, we had to stop by the Plaza. It allows little girls to day dream about being michevious, and unruly. This books belongs on our PPBF list!

  6. robert macpherson says:

    Nicereview Kim. I’ve been looking forward to this.I do recall, when my 6th graders read Eloise, the frontispiece noted a children’s book award. Can’t remember the name. Can’t help to point out that you’ve dated yourself with”introduced waaaaay before I was born in 1955″. Try “introduced in 1955, waaaaay before I was born.” But the parenthetical saved you. Keep ’em coming. Love, Dad

    ________________________________

  7. Joanna says:

    She’s such a character, as are indeed all the characters in these stories! Would it be bought be a publisher today? I didn’t realize she had a website. Thank you

  8. My Mom Person grew up with Eloise. She even had an Eloise doll. Eloise was her hero. And because of that her daughter and granddaughter and dog have all grown up with Eloise! We LOVE Eloise!

  9. I only found the Eloise books after my kids read them at a friend’s house – maybe we never saw them in the library because they were always out!

  10. Stacy S. Jensen says:

    A fun story is timeless, but my kiddo couldn’t handle that word count right now. What a fun character study though. It’s funny how looking at the book by today’s standards we are sort of like — no that’s not appropriate for a kid to be running around a hotel unsupervised.

  11. I didn’t grow up with Eloise, but I grew up with illustrator Hilary Knight. This is a great pick. When I first read this with my son, my then-6-year-old thought Eloise’s antics were hilarious because he knew they were completely not allowed!

  12. Tina says:

    Ah, Eloise! That is a true classic.
    I am starting a new link-up party this week for all things book and reading related on my blog, Mommynificent. I’d love to have you join us with this post and any others you’d like to share. Hope to see you at Booknificent Thursday this week and every week!
    Tina @ Mommynificent

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