In the last half dozen or so years, Eloise, the precocious “City child” created by Kay Thompson and so ably illustrated by Hillary Knight, has again become a cultural icon. And rightfully so, in my opinion, but then I fell head-over-heels for her in the fifties. I wanted to be Eloise. I wanted to live in a hotel with a pug and a turtle, and say “Charge it please, and thank you very much.” I wanted to soak in a huge tub and sing at the top of my lungs, or talk to Mars via paper cup. And I longed to explore the hotel at midnight in pink-striped pajamas. Alas, though my parents could have been considered eccentrics, they were not that eccentric, and steadfastly refused to move to The Plaza in New York and hire a British nanny for me.
Eloise, whose adventures have long been out of print, is now back to inspire a whole new generation, and not just the children either. Eloise is a delight for adults who have never forgotten how to be a child. I can’t say that I’ve even looked at the new Eloise books. I fear that they won’t touch the chord that the Thompson/Knight collaboration did. And then, a bigger fear is that they’re simply milking the cash cow for all they’re worth. But it can’t hurt that children and adults are able to enjoy the original books again. As soon as “Eloise” was reprinted, I went out and bought a copy, not to replace my well-loved and well-used copy, but to help preserve it. Because I still reread the Eloise books regularly. They transport me to another world and another time, and they allow me to be, for a while at least, the child who rides elevators for hours, dances with pigeons and roller skates down the hallways at the Plaza.
If you want to know more about Eloise and the Eloise phenomenon, check out the Eloise Web Site.