Eloise – Kay Thompson

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel:  1 points
Variety of characters: 0 points
Good story: 2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 0 points

This is really a pretty interesting book, and honestly I am quite torn on it. So let’s start with the easy stuff.

It passes Bechdel because Eloise talks to her Nanny (who she just calls “Nanny”, which makes the ‘named character’ criteria a bit dodgy, but I gave it the point anyway). There is really no diversity in the book. There is one image of Eloise crashing an event at the hotel that seems to have Indian people at it, but given that the caption suggests that it is a Halloween event it could just be white people pretending, which, ick, and that’s a discussion I am not going to have here right now.

I’ve given it my point for being an enjoyable story because Eloise is definitely fun to read out loud. She has a very clear voice and there are a number of things in the book that are sly humorous nods to the adult reader. Some of the language she uses as a six year old narrator is obviously stuff she has simply overheard adults saying. It’s kind of cute and funny.

But man, she’s awful. She is spoiled and obnoxious, she runs wild in this hotel in which she lives. Her parents are clearly very wealthy and totally absent. The people who have been left in charge of her seem to be completely unable to handle her at all. This is a kid who is not being parented at all. And while she is engaging and fun to read, I found myself frustrated and irritated by her shenanigans. Even my five year old said, “Wow, mommy, she’s really naughty”.

The thing is, I don’t really object to naughty kids in literature – Calvin is a great favourite of mine. I loved Ramona. But Eloise isn’t just naughty she’s… obnoxious. And I found myself really not liking her as a character, fun though the book is to read. She has an imagination which is nice, but mostly it just feels like I’m reading the tale of an emotionally neglected kid running wild. And while that could be interesting, it almost reads as if there’s absolutely no problem with this.

Is this ideologically problematic? You know, I don’t know. There’s definitely a place for stories about neglect and about horrible unreliable characters, and about naughty kids. But something about the way this one is executed bothers me. I can’t quite place my finger on why. The book, like I’ve said, is entertaining to read, and C thought it was funny. But I can’t quite bring myself to recommend it.

What do you think? Are you familiar with Eloise? What’s your take on this?

 

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