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60 Years Later, 6-Year-Old Eloise from a beloved Children’s book Series Continues to Delight People in New York City

Kay Thompson never thought of Eloise as a children’s book

Kay Thompson
This unpublished illustration by Hilary Knight features Eloise slumped in a chair in the Plaza's enormous, opulent lobby. (Collection of Hilary Knight, © Kay Thompson). VOA

NEW YORK, August 5, 2017: Sixty years after she captured America’s heart, six-year-old Eloise is still making trouble at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

Eloise is the central character in a series of beloved children’s books, written in the 1950s by Kay Thompson, who died in 1998, and illustrated by Hilary Knight, who’s very much alive at 90.

Kay Thompson
Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight on the set of Funny Face, 1956.

Thompson, who at various points in her life was a radio personality, a vocal arranger at MGM, and a popular cabaret performer, amused her friends with the voice of a little girl called Eloise. One of those friends thought the character might make a good children’s book, and introduced her to a young artist named Hilary Knight. Knight says he and Thompson hit it off right away. “She was the most fantastic, interesting, funny, tough lady,” he recalls with a laugh. “She was incredibly talented and I never had so much fun in my life.”

They ended up working on four books together, and a new show at the New York Historical Society looks at the creators of the series.

Life at the Plaza Hotel

Eloise has an absent mother, a close relationship with her Nanny, her dog Weenie, her turtle Skipperdee and the staff of the Plaza Hotel, where she skibbles about and makes a lot of mischief.

Kay Thompson
Eloise left her mark on everything, from mirrors at the Plaza, to readers around the world.VOA

Jane Curley, the exhibition’s curator, says Eloise became part of the cultural zeitgeist. “She landed at the Plaza in 1955, in the midst of the staid Eisenhower era, when role models for women were [traditional stay-at-home moms] June Cleaver and Donna Reed. And all of a sudden here’s this wild irrepressible six-year-old rushing around barging into things, getting into trouble. And she struck a chord.”


In fact, Curley adds, “The Plaza was flooded with six-year-olds looking for Eloise coming in and saying ‘is Eloise here?’”

They still arrive, looking for Eloise. Plaza concierge Hatusumi Komiyali suggests they check the elevator. “If the elevator comes up really, really slow, that means she did it again. That she pressed all the buttons!” she says with a laugh.

The Plaza celebrates its most famous resident, even if she’s fictional. Children visiting the Plaza can have an Eloise tea in the Palm Court, with pink cotton candy, go to a store with all kinds of Eloise merchandise, and even stay overnight in the Eloise suite on the 18th floor, designed by Betsey Johnson.

Kay Thompson
Young visitors can enjoy a stay in the Eloise Suite at the Plaza Hotel. VOA

It’s a riot of pink and each guest has a personal experience, says the hotel’s PR director, Ariana Swerdlin. “Whenever you come in, Eloise writes you a note.”

Ten year-old Annie Clark visited the Plaza, dressed like Eloise, in a black skirt, white shirt, pink sweater and a red ribbon in her hair, and carrying a plush toy turtle, like Eloise’s pet Skipperdee.

Kay Thompson
Eloise fan, Annie Clark, poses in the lobby of the Plaza Hotel.

“I think that I do kind of relate to her, because she lives in New York City. I can be mischievous sometimes,” she admitted. “But not always, like her.”

A book for precocious grownups

The irony is that Kay Thompson never thought of Eloise as a children’s book. Knight points out its subtitle is “A book for precocious grownups, about a little girl who lives at the Plaza Hotel.” “To her dying day, she said it was not a child’s book. It offended her, you know, that people considered it that.”

Curator Jane Curley agrees. “She didn’t like children very much and she would waltz into Doubleday’s [book store] and pick up stacks of her books out of the juvenile section and plunk them down in the grownup section and then walk out.”

The centerpiece of the new exhibition at the New York Historical Society is a large portrait of Eloise that Knight painted for Thompson’s birthday, in which the six-year-old is posing like English royalty.

Kay Thompson
Two years after the painting’s well publicized disappearance, Knight received a phone call from a muffled voice telling him where to find his artwork ― in a trashcan and ripped in pieces. (Collection of Hilary Knight, © Kay Thompson)

Curley says the painting hasn’t been displayed for 57 years. Thompson donated it to the Plaza, where it hung in the lobby, but it was stolen on the night of the Junior League Ball in 1960.

The mystery of the missing portrait

The disappearance made headlines, Curley says. “Walter Cronkite announced on national TV, ‘Eloise kidnapped from the Plaza Hotel.’ Kay offered a reward. There was a great amount of excitement but the portrait failed to show up.”

Two years later, Knight got an anonymous phone call telling him the portrait was in a dumpster on New York’s East Side. He picked up the damaged painting and put it in storage, where it’s been, until it was restored for this exhibit. But the mystery remains. Who took it?

Curley thinks she knows. “I strongly suspect that this was Kay Thompson’s best stunt ever. She was tired of Eloise. It was 1960, she’d taken the three books out of publication and only left the original book in publication. So, to have the portrait disappear was a great exit.” (VOA)


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Trump enters children’s educational books; Presidential encyclopedias updates new section on Trump

Chapters on President Donald Trump have been introduced to a number of children's books including Presidential encyclopedias and Rookie Biographies series

Presidential encyclopedias
US President Donald Trump, VOA

Washington, March 15, 2017:  Dozens of Presidential encyclopedias in the United States aimed at children have now been updated with a new section on Donald Trump.

Several of these books are now available for purchase in the US.

Scholastic’s Rookie Biographies series, which targets first and second-graders, has already introduced Trump in its latest edition.

NewsGram brings to you current foreign news from all over the world.

“Meet Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a famous entrepreneur. He is also a television personality. In 2015, Trump surprised many people when he decided to run for president. In November 2016, he won the election. Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States,” reads the chapter on Trump.

Another noteworthy title out for purchase is “President Donald Trump” by author Joanne Mattern.

NewsGram brings to you top news around the world today.

In a chapter on his presidential run, Mattern writes: “On June 16, 2016, Trump announced he was running for president. He was an unusual choice because he had no experience in politics… Trump ran against Hillary Clinton. She had a lot more experience in politics… The race was close, but Trump won. Many people were happy”.

While these accounts present short biographical sketches of Trump, they almost fail to capture the outrage and protests that Trump continues to face.

“Donald Trump inspired his supporters to try something new. He promised them a better future. Millions of Americans are counting on him to help improve their lives,” adds Mattern.

Check out NewsGram for latest international news updates.

Other similar books for kids include “Donald Trump,” from Abdo Publishing’s series of fourth-grade-level Presidential biographies and “The New Big Book of U.S. Presidents,” a large hardcover published by Running Press. (IANS)

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Enduring Ideals: Norman Rockwell’s Traveling Exhibition features Rockwell’s ‘Four Freedoms’

The Norman Rockwell Museum says the works rallied the public behind the war effort and the exhibit "demonstrates the power of illustration to communicate ideas and inspire change

American artist Norman Rockwell is shown in an undated photo. VOA

Norman Rockwell’s most celebrated series of paintings is embarking on a multi-year tour across the U.S. and to Europe.

The exhibit titled “Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms” opens June 2018 at the New York Historical Society and ends with a five-month run starting June 2020 at the Memorial de Caen museum in France.

The exhibit features Rockwell’s works “Freedom of Speech,” “Freedom from Fear,” “Freedom from Want,” and “Freedom to Worship,” inspired by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union address.

Check out NewsGram for latest international news updates.

It will also appear in Dearborn, Michigan; Washington, D.C.; Stockbridge, Massachusetts; Houston, Texas; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Norman Rockwell Museum says the works rallied the public behind the war effort and the exhibit “demonstrates the power of illustration to communicate ideas and inspire change.”(VOA)