I am giving this five stars because Eloise has so much VOICE it is unbelievable and deeply touching–slightly disturbing, slightly heartbreaking; humorous then obnoxious, then endearing. (Knight’s illustrations capture all of this perfectly!) I believe there are many interpretations to Eloise’s story. For one, it is full of the imaginings of childhood and the delicious freedom of having an entire hotel in which to pursue one’s whims. For another, it is the story of a very naughty little girl who
Personally, I found it a remarkably tender and tragic story about a six-year-old girl who is forced to grow-up in a hotel, parented by her nanny, befriending only those who work at the hotel, while her mother galivants across Europe meeting Coco Chanel and buying AT&T stock. Now, I am not excusing Eloise’s horrid behavior, but I do think it has some foundations in lack of parenting. It is heartbreaking to see Eloise is always packed and ready in case her mother should send for her “if there is sun” in France… Or that is is always emulating the speech patterns of her nanny (clearly the biggest influence in her life). Since “being bored is not allowed,” Eloise devises the most crazy games–some of them are innocent and adorable (using plastic cups in the bath to call Mars) and others are quite obnoxious (pouring water down the mail chute, banging sticks along the doors of hotel guests). Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of humor in this story–some of Eloise’s phrases are laugh-out-loud funny and the illustrations are a riot, but overall I just felt it was a very sad sort of story. I couldn’t quite believe that Eloise is truly happy.
FOR GROWN-UPS, PLEASE READ ON–reference to drugs and alcohol in following quotes:
I am curious to learn more about Thompson’s intent, especially as the subtitle is “A book for precocious grownups.” On the Eloise website it addresses some of the changes, and apparently it WAS a book for grown-ups originally:
“Over the years, there have been editing changes to the text of the story. These changes took place at different points in time. Edits were made, perhaps as the book moved to the children’s genre although Eloise still has a gin bottle in her room (page 20-21). Here are the changes from the original 1955 release and today :
Page 33. “Here’s what I like to do Make things up. Here’s what I hate Peter Rabbit.” The reference to Peter Rabbit has been removed and now just reads “Here’s what I like to do Make things up.” Note, there is “Here’s what I hate Howdy Doody” on page 60 that has remained.
Page 41. Removed is a small picture of Eloise stepping on the floor pedal to flush a toilet. The caption reads: “I go to the Powder Room as often as I can. You just step on it.”
Page 43. “There are absolutely nothing but rooms in the Plaza” now reads “There are absolutely nothing but rooms in the Plaza. Ooooooooooooo I absolutely love the Plaza.”
Page 50. “My mother knows Lily Daché.” now reads “My mother knows Coco Chanel.” More people must know the famous designer Chanel than Daché, a French-born milliner who established a flourishing hat business in the United States with made-to-order creations.
Page 51. Referring to her mother, Eloise states: She goes to Europe and Paris. And when she goes to Miami she stays at the Roney and sends for me if there’s some sun.” now reads “She goes to Europe and Paris and sends for me if there’s some sun.” On the same page, as Eloise talks about her mother’s laywer, she finishes with: “Here’s what he likes Martinis. Here’s what I like Grass.” That now reads: “Here’s what he likes Martinis. Here’s what I like Dandelions.” Kay Thompson addressed this change in the 1969 The New York Times article Pity the Plaza! Eloise Is Back in Town.
“There’s a whole generation grown up in the last decade that will be looking at her with fresh eyes,” Thompson said happily. “The wife of a young friend of mine read ‘Eloise’ recently and where she talks about her mother’s lawyer it says,
Here’s what he likes
Here’s what I like
“Do you know she asked me if I meant marijuana, I told her ‘no’ but to read it any way she wanted to.”
(Methinks Thompson was not the typical “children’s book author” haha!)