"I am Eloise. I am six. I am a city child. I live at the Plaza... My mother knows The Owner... Nanny is my nurse. She wears tissue paper in her dress and you can hear it. She is English and has 8 hairpins made out of bones. She says that's all she needs in this life for Lord's sake... She always says everything 3 times like Eloise you cawn't cawn't cawn't. Sometimes I hit her on the ankle with a tassel. She is my mostly companion... I have a dog that looks like a cat. His name is Weenie. Sometimes I put sunglasses on him... I have a turtle. His name is Skipperdee. He eats raisins and wears sneakers."
- from Eloise -
Several books followed, among them my personal favourite, Eloise in Moscow.
This particular adventure satirizes the Cold War spy thriller: on her way with Nanny to their hotel Eloise observes that "everybody watches everybody...You have to be careful of what you do and say in Moscow otherwise they will swoop down on you and snip-snap at your wrists and send your radio to Copenhagen by rail." Knight's exquisite pictures detail a luxurious hotel decorously adorned with portraits of Stalin and Lenin; his piece de resistance is the central fold-out of the Kremlin, which, like a child, I can stare at for hours at a time. The running commentary by guide Zhenka is wonderful: "In former days is possible to see here market place Red Square immediate neighbourhood of Kremlin scene of momentous events in Russian history and is point of convergence of highways leading through Moscow's ceaseless noisy and brisk commerce." Perfect.
Eloise is described by Marie Brenner as "Holden Caulfield for kindergarten girls", which strikes me as incredibly accurate. She is an "ancient child with the musical vocabulary of a poet"; a cross, in English terms, between Nancy Mitford and Clarice Bean (whom I suspect was directly influenced by Thompson's creation). And yet these are, like so many children's books, largely lost on the very young. Eloise in Moscow, for example, served, at its time of publication, as an antidote to the Cold War propaganda and fear-mongering that gripped America in the 1950s. It is, more than any other of the Eloise books, of great interest as a piece of social history.
I have given Eloise the room to speak for herself here, as I simply cannot do justice to the beauty of these books, in terms of language or images. They are truly wonderful, and I can only hope that you will take the time to become acquainted yourself with this fabulously funny little girl and her gorgeously glamorous life.