Thompson, Kay. 1955. Eloise. Ill. by Hilary Knight. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 067122350X
This book is the story of Eloise, a precocious 6 year old who lives in the penthouse of the Plaza Hotel. She spends her days roaming through the hotel and creating mischief wherever she goes. Her antics range from cute - pretending to talk to Mars through a paper cup while in the bathtub - to downright naughty - hitting the barber in the kneecap. Eloise does whatever she wants, whenever she wants, more often than not annoying the adults around her. While she interacts with numerous people in the hotel throughout the day, her one regular companion is her British nanny, Nanny. The story is told from Eloise's perspective. Kay Thompson neglects to use punctuation to end her sentences. Therefore, the books is written as one long run-on sentence, giving the readers the impression that they are really listening to a rambunctious 6 year old speak.
This year, Eloise celebrates its 60th anniversary. It is widely considered a classic piece of children's literature. Kay Thompson has created a book that has stood the test of time. The style in which she writes really gives Eloise a strong voice and conveys what a big personality this little girl has. While her choice of setting, the Plaza Hotel, may not be relatable to many children, the actions of Eloise are. Without much adult supervision, she has the freedom to explore the hotel and give in to her impulses, which are usually quite inappropriate. Young readers can relate to having those feelings of curiosity and also wanting to misbehave from time to time.
Being that this book was written in 1955, there are many references in it that children today may not understand. Nanny's use of a corset, the Switchboard Operators, the step to flush the toilet, and the red garters on her tutor are just a few examples. The book has had some editing changes throughout the years, however, to make it more accessible for children.
Hilary Knight cleverly drew the illustrations in black and white, with pink being the only accent color. For a little girl, the use of pink makes this book that much more appealing. Additionally, he uses a lighter version of the pink to illustrate things that Eloise is imagining. This helps the reader really get into Eloise's mind. Knight clearly depicts the various emotions Eloise is experiencing on her face, as well as the frustration and exhaustion on Nanny's face and other adults who interact with Eloise.
This was the first time I had ever read Eloise, and I personally thought it was a really difficult book to read aloud, due to the fact that the sentences have no end marks. It is much longer than the usual 32 page picture book, and I found myself losing interest the longer I read. Also, I couldn't help but feel bad for Eloise throughout the entire book. It doesn't seem like she has any friends her own age, and all the adults in the hotel only tolerate her because her mother knows the owner. And where are her parents? Her mother is always jet setting to some sophisticated location, and there is no mention of her father. Her suitcase is always packed on the off chance that her mother will send for her; this all seems like a very lonely existence for a 6 year old.
However, my own 6 year old really enjoyed this book. Her response to hearing it for the first time was, "I loved this book! I liked that she kept putting different things on her head and pretending they were hats." In fact, as I sat down to write my review, I couldn't locate the book. My daughter had actually taken it and put it away on her book shelf!
#76 on School Library Journal's Top 100 Picture Books
From AMAZON.COM - "Eloise's exploits are non-stop, and - accordingly - the text uses nary a period. Kay Thompson perfectly captures the way children speak: in endless sentences elongated with 'and then...and then...and then...' Hilary Knight's drawings illustrate Eloise's braggadocio and amusement as well as the bewilderment of harassed hotel guests. Eloise's taunts are terrible, her imagination inimitable, her pace positively perilous. Her impertinence will delight readers of all ages."
From Edward I. Koch (former NYC mayor) - "Eloise is one of the more delightfully fiendish literary heroines of our time."
Read the subsequent books in the series. Discuss the similarities and differences.
- Thompson, Kay. Eloise in Paris. ISBN 0689827040
- Thompson, Kay. Eloise at Christmastime. ISBN 0689830394
- Thompson, Kay. Eloise in Moscow. ISBN 0689832117
- Thompson, Kay. The Absolutely Essential Eloise. ISBN 0689827032
- Thompson, Kay. Eloise's Guide to Life or How to Eat, Dress, Travel, Behave, and Stay Six Forever! ISBN 0689833105
- Thompson, Kay. Eloise Takes a Bawth. ISBN 0689842880
Watch the 2003 movie "Eloise at the Plaza." Discuss similarities and differences.
Have a discussion about proper behavior. Give examples of how Eloise behaved inappropriately and what she could have done to behave better.
Imagine that you were able to explore a hotel all day. Where would you go? What would you do?
Talk about how things were different in 1955. What did you notice in the book that doesn't happen anymore today?