Eloise At The Plaza by Kay Thompson: A book for precocious adults

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Read: If you’re looking to step back in time to give your child self a hug.

Genre: Comedy meets children’s fantasy land

Year Released: 1955

Author: Kay Thompson


A little context: Rumour has it, Thompson was an extremely lonely child. Through this loneliness she took on and characterised the voice of Eloise, an imaginary friend. She grew into a successful jazz performer late in life and often performed as ‘Eloise’ in her performances and also for friends at parties. Thompson was urged by friend and Harper’s Bazaar fashion editor D.D. Ryan to turn this voice into a book. Post-publication, readers went wild and a further four books for the series were soon released.

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Okay, close your eyes — slip into the teenie shoes of the protagonist of today’s Long Read — Eloise, “a very special little girl who lives at The Plaza Hotel in New York City.” She’s the star of the series ‘Eloise at the Plaza’, a passion project between (mutual) friends, author Kay Thompson and illustrator Hilary Knight. This series, first published in 1955, is a chaotic tale — but the best of its kind. A story about hotels and adventure, all through the curious, enigmatic eyes of the small and mighty. Page by page we’re taken on a rampage through one of the most iconic hotels in history. As we read, we couldn’t help but wonder — what if the locations were switched…

Back into Eloise’s teenie shoes, let’s begin. You’re exactly 1.6m in height, dressed to the nines in Chanel’s 1950s children’s range — a simple black pinafore and a puffy white blouse.

In a burst of childlike energy you feel compelled to yell out, “I am Eloise. I am six and I live at The Plaza *Old Clare* hotel”. You look around the room and see your infinitely patient British nanny, a rolly polly pug named Weenie, and a reluctantly poised turtle, Skipperdee. From here on out the hotel is your whole world, your oyster, your playground. 

You jump off the bed, snatch the key from that dutiful Nanny standing in the corner, open the hotel room door and sprint, jump and swoop down the history-laden halls. Running around, you feel invincible — as all children believe themselves to be — sliding down the staircase, clutching the hardwood railings, piling into elevators full of adults, repeatedly asking grown up guests if they’d like to play mermaids by the rooftop pool…

The magic of this children’s book for adults (and their children)? Through the beady eyes of Eloise, we learn to take each day as an adventure, each room as a wonderland of joy and intrigue. We learn — to each their own, or as Nanny insists, now sardined along with you in the elevator: “Please, miss Eloise — I dearly love you, much, much, much but it’s time to take a moment, consider our fellow guests and rest, rest, rest.”

In the spirit of this itty bitty perspective on hotel living, we ask you — not to crayon the ceiling or brush shoulders with chaos — but rather to indulge in a little hospitality and, well, use your imagination. Go forth and explore!

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