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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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Perfect Picture Book Friday: How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?

It’s Perfect Picture Book Friday— one of my favorite times of the week!  Today I am a bit late because the last few days have been ridiculously busy with too many things.  And today is Ian’s school “fun run” where the kids raise money by being sponsored to run 30 laps around their field track.  I volunteered to check off laps for each child (fun!), but before that I have to finish sorting books in Ian’s classroom.  And AFTER the run, I have school library duty!  I won’t be done until Ian gets off the bus.  Then he’s got soccer practice and a tennis event tonight.  No time to write!

(Not making excuses… just sayin’.)

So in honor of the fun run, today I’m picking a FUN book.  I’ll admit I’ve been picking some wonderfully moving, tear-jerking books as of late… and it’s time to switch gears and bring a little levity to this blog!  So here’s my pick this week– it’s a winner:

How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food?

Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Mark Teague

Blue Sky Press
September 2005

Themes/Topics: Manners, behavior, dinner table etiquette

Opening Lines:  

How does a dinosaur
eat all his food?
Does he burp,
does he belch,
or make noises quite rude?

Synopsis:  This is part of a funny “dinosaur” series written and illustrated by the incomparable team of Jane Yolen and Mark Teague.  (Other books in the series include titles such as How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night, How Do Dinosaurs Eat Cookies, How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon?)

The first half of …Eat Their Food is all about the “questions” (as shown above in the opening lines). These questions ask how a dinosaur might misbehave at the dinner table… in all different ways (“does he bubble his milk?  stick beans up his nose?”)  Each question is accompanied by an illustration of the dinosaur doing the dirty deed.

Then the second half of the book ANSWERS the questions and basically says “No!”  In other words, the dinosaurs do NOT do all of these terribly ill-mannered things… instead they say “please and thank you” and eat “all before him with smiles and good will.”  And on and on.  So the good behavior counters the bad.

Why I like this book:  This is one of my favorites of the series.  They’re all done with humor, but something about dinosaurs having bad table manners makes me chuckle inside.  The illustrations are colorful and depict goofy dinosaurs in various human-like (child-like) poses.  The cadence of the writing and the rhyme is fun to read, both outloud and to yourself.  Best of all, there’s a message that goes along with the humor– that is, if dinosaurs can have good table manners, so can YOU, dear child.

Resources/links:  Jane Yolen’s web site.    And here’s a quick little article on teaching your child good table manners.

Check out all the Perfect Picture Book picks on Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog, here.

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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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