Eloise is a brat

Kay Thompson’s Eloise is a picture book.

The pictures by Hilary Knight are charming. Eloise is not.

Eloise: A Book for Precocious Grown Ups by Kay Thompson

Hilary Knight, illus.. Simon & Schuster, 1956. 1956 bestseller #5. My grade: C-.

Eloise writes her name in lipstick on a mirror Eloise is 6.

She lives at The Plaza Hotel where the manager says she is a nuisance.

That is an understatement.

What this scraggy-haired hellion in Mary Janes doesn’t get into is not to be found at the Plaza Hotel.

She visits the Persian Room, the Boiler Room, and the Men’s Room.

She “helps” the maid and the switchboard operators, the busboys and waiters.

She’s rude, insolent, and spoiled rotten.

At 20, Eloise will look like the bored, rich girls of Valley of the Dolls.

She’s already got a good start.

Eloise’s favorite phrases are “Oh my Lord” and “Charge it, please.”

Her mother leaves Eloise with a nanny while she’s off to Europe or on a jaunt to Virginia with her lawyer.

If Eloise has a father, he doesn’t come into the story.

Eloise dislikes school, so her mother has her tutored at home.

Eloise’s mother “knows everyone” from Coco Chanel to the Dean of Andover.

Let’s hope she also knows a good bailbondsman.

In a few years, Eloise will need one.

© 2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni


Eloise at Christmastime Gives Holiday Depression

Eloise at Christmastime is another in Kay Thompson’s highly successful books “for precocious adults” illustrated by Hilary Knight.

There’s no real plot here. Eloise at Christmastime is more merchandise than storybook: the literary equivalent of Disney-character drinking glasses sold for 99¢ with a McDonald’s cheeseburger. It it weren’t for Knight’s drawings, there would be no book.

Thompson captures the self-absorption of a six-year-old to perfection, letting Eloise narrate her own story. Talking about herself is what Eloise does best.

Her usual brattiness accentuated by holiday excitement, Eloise runs wild through the Plaza Hotel where she lives on the top floor with Nanny. Poor Nanny does her best to provide some structure and stability for Eloise, but her orthopedic oxfords can’t keep up with Eloise’s Mary Janes.

Mother, as usual, is off traveling. She sends Eloise a cartwheel hat and calls her long distance from the Mediterranean on Christmas Eve.

I didn’t find previous Eloise books amusing, but this one struck me as downright depressing. There’s something about see a six-year-old exchanging gifts with a dog and a turtle while Mother works on her tan in the Mediterranean that makes me want to howl.

Sadly, there are too many Eloises in the world today—and too few Nannies.

Eloise at Christmastime
by Kay Thompson
Drawings by Hilary Knight
Random House, 1958
1958 Bestseller #6
My Grade: D
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni