Eloise gets more outlandish with each book in Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight's popular 1950s series. First published in 1951--when cold war sentiments were heating up--Eloise in Moscow
showcases the highly undiplomatic exploits of our favorite precocious 6-year-old as she paints the town red with her beloved Nanny. Adults will relish this glimpse behind the Iron Curtain, complete with a foldout spread of the Kremlin that is positively suitable for framing ("Here's what they/ have in the Kremlin/ armor Easter eggs/ icons/ and clocks," "Ivan is terrible/ and is watching in this tower"). The usual pink, black, and white color scheme is absent here--Knight's pen-and-ink drawings are instead accented with a rich goldenrod, and in the foldout Kremlin, even oranges and greens.
After a three-week stay in Moscow with her colleague Hilary Knight, Kay Thompson had plenty of fodder for her distinctly Eloisian travelogue: the food ("It is difficult to know what to eat in Moscow/ There is no melon in season/ Nichevo"); the stilted English of their tour guide ("That house is Chekhov/ That house is Stanislavsky if you want to see it/ No you cannot it is reconstruction"); national security ("Our telephone had quite a bit of static/ so we talked about General de Gaulle/ to throw them off track/ Everybody listens to everything in Moscow"); and even the water ("The water is Russian so I brushed my teeth/ with/ pear lemonade and apple lemonade/ Actually I preferred/ the pear").
Children will be fascinated by the intricate, delicately skritched details of this 72-page picture book, but adults will surely be the most amused. Fortunately, in the wake of Eloise's Russian junket, the Kremlin wall is left standing, and there are no international repercussions. But is she, as she haughtily declares, an "absolutely darling little sweetnik"? Definitely nyet. And that's the way we like her. If your Eloise library is incomplete, which would be sad, be sure to investigate Eloise in Paris; Eloise at Christmastime; The Absolutely Essential Eloise (complete with historical scrapbook); or the original recipe, Eloise. (Best for grownups--or as a read-aloud for ages 7 and older) --Karin Snelson
About the Author
Kay Thompson (1909–1998) was a singer, dancer, vocal arranger, and coach of many MGM musicals in the 1940s. The Eloise character grew out of the voice of a precocious six-year-old that Miss Thompson put on to amuse her friends. Collaborating with Hilary Knight on what was an immediate bestseller, Kay Thompson became a literary sensation when Eloise
was published in 1955. The book has sold more than two million copies to date. Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight created four more Eloise books, Eloise in Paris, Eloise at Christmas, Eloise in Moscow,
and Eloise Takes a Bawth.
Hilary Knight, son of artist-writers Clayton Knight and Katharine Sturges, was educated at the Art Students League, where he studied with Reginald Marsh. Besides the Eloise books, Hilary Knight has illustrated more than fifty books for children, six of which he wrote himself. He lives and works in New York City, not far from The Plaza Hotel.