Kay Thompson’s Eloise

Thompson, Kay. 1955. Eloise. Ill. Hilary Knight. New York: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers. ISBN 067122350X

Eloise is an entertaining tale of a six-year-old girl who lives in The Plaza Hotel.  Instead of following a standard plot, Eloise takes the reader through a potential day.  Eloise has a great imagination, but her ability to get into trouble is what makes her story enjoyable.

Reading Eloise as an adult, it is easy to get annoyed at her for being a brat and messing with the hotel staff.  However, she appeals to the mischievous side in a child.  Even if a child doesn’t know of the Plaza, they know that running down the hall dragging sticks along the walls to make noise isn’t polite to the people in the rooms.  Just because they know it is wrong doesn’t mean kids, and let’s be honest adults too, wouldn’t want drag sticks along the wall to let the world know they were having a bad day.

It’s clear that Eloise has heard certain phrases, “Charge it please” or “For Lord’s sake,” all her life.  However, she has no idea where they go in practice.

Knight uses only two colors for Eloise, black and pink.  Eloise’s bow, her knickers, her imagination, and the floor are some of the things that are pink.  Most of the images are ‘floating’ in negative space with nothing to ground them.  However, these floating pictures are often beside single word descriptions of the action, creating a line of motion.  A great example of this motion is on the page where Eloise throws her temper tantrum.  This happens over a two page spread where Knight slowly shows the “polite” Eloise turn into a wild angry mess before cleaning herself up and becoming proper again.

Eloise could be used as an example of what not to do, but kids don’t need to be preached at.  Instead, it would be easy to turn some of her misadventures into something fun.  For example, Eloise looks in the trash for a ribbon that she thinks is pretty.  It would be simple to have a few boxes of odds and ends, like fabric scraps or small stuffed animals, or little plastic figurines or just some shiny stars, and encourage the children to find a “treasure.”  Another option would be to do something similar to using paper cups to talk to Mars.  If paper cups can be used to talk to Mars, what can a hairbrush or a shoe be used for?

SJL (5/20/2012) “The plot, I have since learned, is basically just a six-year-old girl living in the fancy dancy Plaza, wreaking havoc and being sweet.”

Bird, Elizabeth. 2012. Top 100 Picture Books #77 Eloise by Kay Thompson. School Library Journal. http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2012/05/21/top-100-picture-books-76-eloise-by-kay-thompson/. Accessed September11, 2013.

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