Kid Lit Dish

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

Perfect Picture Book Friday: Eloise

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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Nurture Your Goodness

I would argue that lovers (especially WRITERS) of children’s literature are ALL good and kind people… with big, compassionate hearts.  Just a guess.

Of course, I am a Pollyanna, of sorts, and believe that MOST people (save a few) are good at their core… no matter how dastardly their deeds may be.

But kidlit people– REAL kidlit folks… well, to me, they (we) are a special breed.   I don’t think it’s possible to feel true joy when creating stories for young people if you have a bad bone in your body.  In fact, I would argue, that the MORE you embrace– and nurture– that sweet, unselfish, good-hearted side of yourself, the better your stories will be.

Very recently, a friend passed away.  He was really more of what I’d call a “solid” or “good” acquaintance– our boys are the same age, they played on the same football team last year, we’d see each other at school every other day…

But I cried buckets when I heard the news.  I was absolutely devastated.  Why?  Well, he was relatively young at  53 years old and his passing was sudden and completely unexpected.  He left behind an ailing wife and three children.  And he was truly one of the most kind-hearted people I’ve ever met in my entire life.

This happened in early October and I haven’t been able to write about him until now.  He was the kind of person who, even if you didn’t “run into him” in the school hallway for a few weeks, he’d remember EXACTLY where you left off in your last conversation… and he’d follow up with you on those things.  He always had a big smile on his face… for everyone, friend or stranger.  He was the kind of person who would just lift a person up when you saw him.  His goodness flowed out of him like a river and EVERYONE felt it.  He had just about the whole community attend his funeral.  His loss stung more than words can say.  Everyone felt it– like the world was not quite as good a place without him in it.  That’s no exaggeration.

At his funeral, one of his sisters said that when he was a kid, he made it his life’s goal to make at least ONE person happy every single day.  I’m sure he accomplished that… and then some.

My point in all this is to pay homage to this wonderful man… and to say that he would have made a helluva children’s writer, I would bet.

Nurture your goodness.  Focus on others.  Make one person happy every day.

Rest in peace, Kevin.

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FINALLY… On Loosening Up

Well, here it is “tomorrow” and I’ve actually got another post!  Wow, two days in a row after two weeks of nada… from the sublime to the ridiculous.  (THAT one’s for my hubby, who can’t stand that phrase!) 😉

Those who know me know I love tennis.  Well, I may not be AS passionate about it as I used to be, but I do think it’s a great sport and when I’m feeling “on,” I love to play.

And those who love this game can always come up with comparisons of how tennis is a lot like life.  (Probably a lot of sports can say that, but tennis is one of those unique games in that it ultimately IS about you and you alone.  Unless you’re playing doubles, you’re really all alone out there… a team of one.)  There are a myriad of analogies out there.  Just Google “Tennis and Life” and see for yourself.

And there are other little nuances of the game that can be analogous to the real world, such as the fact that you can be the best in the world, but if you lack confidence in your abilities, you probably won’t be successful.  And one subtle change in your thinking out there on the court can shift momentum from your side to the other, or vice versa.  It’s truly 80% mental.  Again,  just like life.  Believe in yourself.  Set goals.  Work hard.  Success!

But it drills down from there.  And that gets me (finally!) to my point for today and that is that when you’re nervous playing a real match, you’re going to play what the pros call “tight”– meaning your forearm (your whole body, really) will be stiff.  If your arm is tense and not loose, it’ll react against the ball in a completely different (read: not good) way.  It’s an almost guaranteed error or fault most of the time when you’re hitting.  And that’s how matches are lost.

I was thinking about this today when I was thinking about writing and drawing.  I know when I started this whole process, I wanted to be so precise with everything.  So I wouldn’t even write down one word until I had the entire story outlined.  And I wouldn’t draw a picture without making sure my lines were smooth and straight.  But that was doing nothing to improve either my writing OR my drawing.

So now instead of these precision drawings (that invariably all ended up cartoon-like), I’m drawing nothing but these rough sketches and really trying to focus on GESTURE.  And two weeks ago, I wrote a pure-prose PB manuscript that I’m really happy with… in one day.  (“Precision”-me wouldn’t have been able to do that!)  Granted, this past Saturday was spent in a first round of revisions for that sucker (I had to get away from it for two weeks… to really see it for what it is) but I do believe there may be something there.

So I leave you with this: No matter what you’re doing– if it’s a picture book, an illustration, a poem… whatever– don’t THINK about it so much. Loosen up a little.  Leave all your inhibitions in the ethers and just DO what flows from your fingers and brain.  See what comes out of that kind of freedom.  I’ll bet you anything some really good stuff awaits.

Enjoy the day, everyone!

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Catching Up (and STILL Loosening Up)

I have SO much to write about and so little time… First off, I want to mention that one of my picture book pitches will be “airing” today on author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog for her Would You Read it Wednesday (WYRIW) feature.  I’m excited to see if any of Susanna’s followers WOULD actually read the book, based on the pitch alone.  Check it out on her home page.

And I’m especially looking forward to the feedback because of something that Mary Kole told me about that very same pitch recently.  That’s right– Mary Kole.  Literary agent extraordinaire, blogger behind KidLit.com (with tens of THOUSANDS of followers) and now published author of the hit new guide for children’s writers, Writing Irresistible Kidlit.  I’ve written about her in previous posts, but have kept her somewhat anonymous.  Well, I can officially tell you that it’s Mary who has helped me tremendously with my writing.  AND she also took a look at my near-twenty PB ideas, written in synopsis and/or “pitch” format.  And one of them, dear friends, was the pitch found on WYRIW today.  That’s why I was a major PITA for Susanna… because she already had a different pitch/different book set for today… and I switched gears on her at the 11th hour.  (Sorry again, Susanna!)

I’m going to leave you in suspense about what Mary said… he he he.  More on that, along with some of the things I’ve learned from her, in a future post.  (Hey, suspense is part of good fiction writing, right?  And that INCLUDES the world of picture books, of course!  So sue me!)  🙂

Mary’s not the only one who’s been helping me.  As many of you know, I’ve been writing a lot of rhyming stories lately, and I sent the one I felt the strongest about to none other than 1 Zany Zoo author Lori Degman!  Lori is a true expert on rhyming and meter… and she gave me some great insights and advice on how I can make that particular manuscript much better.

For the record, both Mary and Lori offer freelance critiquing services–  I’d recommend both of them highly. (Check them out at MaryKole.com and LoriDegman.com.)

Something funny happened as a result of taking the advice of both Mary and Lori– I went into serious revision mode… but what I ended up with is a completely new, completely different story with an actual theme, unique (yet not) conflict, and a strong central character.  I started out by trying to flesh out the original character more… and the rest kind of wrote itself.  I’m not completely finished with this one, but I’m really happy with where this one’s going.  No, scratch that.  I’m really excited about this one!  My goal is to wrap it up and start submitting to agents at the end of this month.  (Yikes!  Is it already November 14th?  Hmmm… maybe I’ll make that deadline end of the year!)

This post is getting long– I’ll save the rest (more about loosening up) for a later post.  Maybe– gasp!– I’ll post it tomorrow!

Happy Wednesday, All!

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Dribs and drabs

I just realized yesterday that I’ve been actively pursuing this KidLit writer’s life since the end of July, and have completed two manuscripts and am well into a third… and, just this week, have started a fourth!  (As I wrote here the other day, I want to have three that are completely done– three that I’m happy with, anyway– before I start submitting to agents.)  And I have a feeling the fourth will be the best.  It seems that whenever I can’t finish one, I have to start another… then that somehow gets me back to the previous unfinished one and I’m able to complete it.  It’s what I did with numbers 1, 2… and now 3.  Go figure.  That’s my process, I guess!

My only hope is that I don’t turn into a serial writer who never ends up submitting anything.

Back to agents for a sec– I know that I’m probably just a few weeks away from submitting, so I ordered a copy of the 2013 Guide to Literary Agents the other day and it arrived yesterday.  SOOO excited to see that my literary agency (that sold my e-mail marketing book that I wrote umpteen years ago)  is in there and NOW has an agent specializing in KidLit who is actively seeking picture books!  She will obviously be my first contact– as soon as I have my “magic three,” I’ll email her a query.  Unfortunately, I learned that my original agent there — one of the founders/partners– passed away just a few months ago.  Very sad.

And speaking of sad, I find that I’m drawn to more melancholy picture books… melancholy with a message, that is.  I’m not sure if that means that’s what I need to be writing or not.  I remember in the old days of taking novel writing classes, I used to always hear, “Write what you know.  Write what you’re drawn to in your own reading.”  So we’ll see.  On the other hand, I do really enjoy goofy picture books, too.  Yes– with rhyme (and without)!  What the heck is wrong with rhyming picture books, anyway?  Everyone says that they are verboten with some editors… yet I constantly see new rhyming picture books getting released.  I can’t help it– rhyme just comes naturally to me… though I do want to transition to writing more prose.

This is supposed to be my Tuesday post… it’s late because it’s been a crazy week.  Tomorrow is Perfect Picture Book Friday already!  I can’t wait– I already have my book in mind (yes, it’s rather melancholy).

Oh… and the sketch today?  Not related to anything.  Just felt like drawing an egg and a chick.  🙂

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Design Of The Picture Book

Welcome to Design of the Picture Book! I'm Carter Higgins, and I'm a writer and librarian for kids. I spent a spectacular stint as the Children's Book Editor at <a href="http://www.designmom.com/">Design Mom</a> which I loved! You can find my column <a href="http://www.designmom.com/category/childrens-lit/">here</a>.<br /> I'm a K-6 librarian, a former-ish graphic designer, an SCBWI member, and a huge fan of words and pictures.<br /> Represented by <a href="http://www.rpcontent.com/">Rubin Pfeffer of Rubin Pfeffer Content, LLC</a>.

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