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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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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Perfect Picture Book Friday: Remember, Grandma?

I was browsing in Ian’s school library earlier this week and came across this little gem.  At first glance, I thought the title was “Remember Grandma” — so I thought it was about a child’s memory of her departed grandmother.  When I peeked inside, however, I realized that this book is about a little girl who is realizing that her dear grandmother is slowly but surely losing her memory… and along with that, all recognition of her and her family.

Remember, Grandma?

Written by Laura Langston; Illustrated by Lindsey Gardiner
Viking Children’s; May 2004
Suitable for: Age 5+

Theme/Topics: Grandparents, Family, Loss, Illness

Opening Lines:
My grandma lives with us now because she can’t remember.
She is not the wrinkled kind; she’s the special kind instead.
She wears high-topped sneakers with yellow laces and she laughs very loud.
Once she had a houseboat and an art gallery by the sea.  
Then she played the piano and made mile-high apple pie.

Now 
she sits in
her special chair
and rocks quick,
quick,
quick

Synopsis:  Narrated in first person from the little girl’s point of view, this is a story of remembering– how a granddaughter first senses, then realizes the impact of her grandmother’s increasing senility… and how she copes.  From the book description: “Warm and accessible, Remember, Grandma? is an important book that will strike a chord with many readers. For families who have a relative facing memory loss, it may trigger important conversations. And for all children with aging family members, it provides gentle reassurance about the love within families that endures even when memory does not.”

Why I Like This Book:  This is a beautifully written and illustrated… and very poignant… little picture book.  One of the things that got to me were the illustrations of the grandma– especially her eyes, which are at once sad with remembering, and next confused with forgetfulness.  But through it all, she smiles, as does her granddaughter.  I was drawn to this book because of the cover of the little girl and her grandma, because I was especially close with my own grandmother up until the day she died… and that probably makes it all the more bittersweet for me, personally.

Aside from the illustrations, though, I think the language and the tone are just gorgeous.  And SO childlike.  For instance, when it’s clear that Grandma’s “forgetting” is getting worse, there’s a scene where the two are making an apple pie:

When I cut away the bruised parts,
Grandma stops me.

‘The bruised parts are best,’ she says.  
“All the sweetness in the apple
rushes to the soft brown part.”
Dad laughs, but Grandma insists.
“I remember,” she says.
“A fruit man told me once.”

We keep the bruised parts in
our mile-high apple pie.
Because Grandma remembered.

I mean come ON– how can you read that and NOT be moved?  That passage gets me every single time.

Resources: Laura Langston’s web site.  Also the back of the book contains a real mile-high apple pie recipe, which would be great to make with the kids as you discuss the book (especially the part about the bruised apples!)

For more “perfect picture books” (and to see the KidLit blogging world’s latest entries for today), visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Book Friday page.  I could spend every day on Susanna’s site!  (Actually, I think I do…) 😀   Happy Friday, everyone!!

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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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