One of my critique partners, Megan Bickel, is hosting the “My Favorite Picture Book” blogfest today.  When I signed up, I worried that choosing only one would be an impossible task, so I was surprised to find that the choice came quickly to mind.  Drumroll please…

My favorite picture book is Eloise, by Kay Thompson.  I think this choice surprised even me, given my love of Dr. Seuss and all things rhyming, but when I thought back on books that impacted me as a child, I had to go with Eloise.  For one thing, it was one of the few books I actually owned.  For another, the story and the pictures are so rich, I could spend hours poring over this book.  I grew up in a small town in Northern Michigan.  At the time I was reading Eloise, I had never even stayed in a hotel, much less lived in one.  So the book was probably my first exposure to a way of life completely different from my own (never mind that it was different from almost everyone else’s too).  Today, my love of Eloise is only magnified by the knowledge that this book, if submitted today, would probably not be published.  I give both cultural and writerly reasons below, but first, let’s celebrate Eloise, the girl.

Why Eloise is awesome

  • She is whip smart and self-reliant
  • She’s her own person and unapologetic about it
  • She has a sense of wonder about every small thing around her
  • She has a wild imagination and loves to pretend
  • She is cunning
  • She refuses to get bored. Why would you get bored when you can comb your hair with a fork, wear your arm in a sling or put a rubber band on the end of your nose?
  • She’s a real kid.  Despite her obvious wealth and unconventional lifestyle, every child from every background can relate to her.  My favorite scene in the book is when she copies everything her tutor says and does until he is driven to insanity.  Why do all kids do this?? My son is in this phase right now, and my daughter went through it too.  I know I tormented my own mother likewise.  I suspect that two millenia from now, somewhere in the world a parent and child will be having this conversation: “Time for dinner.”  “Time for dinner.”  “Please don’t do that.”  “Please don’t do that.”  “I mean it.”  “I mean it.”  “That’s not funny.”  “That’s not funny.”  And on and on til the end of time…
  • She is mischievous but also loving and lovable

Why Eloise couldn’t get published today: Cultural Reasons 

  • My GAWD, the grown-ups smoke, drink and gamble
  • A six year-old runs around a hotel without any adult supervision
  • Absentee parents
  • Lord, but they say Lord a lot in this book
  • Little girl commits vandalism in a public space
  • Doesn’t anyone discipline this girl?

Why Eloise couldn’t get published today: Writerly Reasons

  • Opening lines = “I am Eloise. I am six.”  Probably wouldn’t fly today.
  • Holy word count Batman! At 3000+ words, it probably wouldn’t get past the query stage
  • Tri-color pencil drawings.  While they are so detailed and so gorgeous, they probably wouldn’t be flashy enough for today’s market.

So I’m glad it got published when it did, so that generations of children can come to know Eloise – a true original.

So, what is YOUR favorite picture book?  Do you agree or disagree that Eloise probably wouldn’t get published today?

 

 

Categories: Authors, Childhood, Children's Books, Picture Books · Tags: , , , ,

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25 Comments

  1. I almost picked Eloise as my book too! I love, love, love Eloise. I absolutely do.

    Thanks for participating in my blogfest, Julie!

  2. I realize now I’ve never actually read Eloise– I will remedy this immediately!

  3. Eloise is great! I probably should had my girls reading those books more when they were little but I was never very good about picking books about girls. They were more girlish than I was so they would have appreciated it more than I would have thought! It should be on my list in case there’s another little girl in the family some day though! (Lord! I can’t believe I’m old enough to even think about grandchildren. ICK!) Cheers!

  4. I can’t believe it, but I’m not sure I read Eloise either, even though I grew up in NYC! If I did read it, it was long ago, and after reading your post I feel I must go read it again!

  5. That looks like a good book. I like your analysis of the book compared to what it would have been like if the author was trying in today’s market. Very interesting.

  6. Oh, yes! I remember Eloise!!! Your critique of the book is wonderful.

    A book I absolutely LOVED was Little Black Sambo, but we all know what happened there. I never, ever saw it as a racial book as a kid (although understand it better now). I just loved it that he outsmarted the tiger and even had him for breakfast! Maybe it was why I loved pancakes so much (or vice versa).

    Eloise – let’s here it for breaking the PC rules! And tri-colour illustrations only gave us more room for imagination!

    • Someone else mentioned Little Black Sambo, but I never read that one.

      One thing I love about the tri-color illustrations is that they use red to show the pretend parts of Eloise’s games. Brilliant!

      • Now I will have to locate this book and have a look at the ‘red parts’!

        • I never read Eloise either (soon to be remedied!) but I had (and still have) Little Black Sambo: a totally racist book but as Lori says you don’t realise it when you are a kid. Who wouldn’t love a kid with beautiful purple shoes and a beautiful green jacket who outsmarted tigers and fed his family buttermilk? Lovely post 🙂

  7. I’m not familiar with Eloise. Given your rationales, I expect you’re correct that it would not be published today.

    We’ve advanced in many ways, and taken two steps back in others.

    My favorite picture books included Dr. Seuss, Epaminondas, The Little Teddy Bear, Little Black Sambo, and so many others. I wore the ink of the page from reading them so often.

    Thanks, Julie.

  8. I’ve only discovered the Eloise books in the last five years. I bought them to read to my daughter. She laughs at the mischief Eloise gets into. There’s a valentines book that she requests all the time called, ‘Love&Kisses, Eloise.’ Eloise runs around the hotel making cards, playing cupid, and demonstrating her love, Eloise style!

    I believe the general concept may get published today because there are many books like that with little girls being demanding or mischievous, that have been published. For example, Princess Smartypants, Pinkalicious, The Little Princess, Princess Penelope and more.

    The text is outdated with words such as Lord and I don’t think publishers would pass the parents drinking and smoking-somehow.

    Eloise is still a classic and has many endearing qualities with the relationships she shares with her Nanny, her dog, and other people in the Plaza.

    • Renee – the only Eloise book I’ve ever read is the original. I loved it so much I couldn’t bring myself to read the modern sequels. I hope they are as good as the first.

      I too love all the relationships she forms with the people at the Plaza. It’s interesting, because they are all with adults, which is probably something else that wouldn’t fly in today’s market, as more books seem to be about kids interacting with other kids.

  9. My daughter loves this book and makes me act out the scene where Eloise makes Philip angry with her over and over.

    That’s enough Eloise.”

    “That’s enough Eloise.”

    “I mean it, Eloise”

    “I mean it, Eloise.”

    Ha!

  10. i don’t agree that Eloise’s persona is passe — look at Olivia.

    • I wasn’t saying Eloise herself is passe, just that the content and length of the book would probably make it unlikely to be published today. The Eloise persona, thankfully, is alive and well in many PB characters today.

  11. My favorite picture book is “Miss Rumphius” by Barbara Cooney!

  12. Looks like a great book, and a great role model for girls too.

    • Well, I’m not sure about the role model aspect since she gets in trouble so much. 🙂 Seriously though, it is a great book.

  13. I haven’t read this one either (I’m feeling that my exposure to picture books is woefully inadequate, after this blogfest). I would agree that it wouldn’t be published today. Thank goodness books last for long periods of time!

  14. Great take on such a wonderful PB! Nice post. I like the way you broke it up. I’m finally making the rounds for the blogfest and posting my favorite PB today. Nice to meet you.

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