27 October 2011

Eloise et al.: “They were never children’s books”

At Graphic Novel Reporter, of all places, illustrator Hilary Knight talked about how he co-created the Eloise books with song-and-dance woman Kay Thompson:
The Eloise character herself was totally Kay Thompson. She told me who this little girl was. Kay was not particularly visual, and when we worked together, she would talk to me and I would draw things. And that’s how we did all the books. We worked directly together, which is very unusual.

And the other thing that I keep talking about, because Kay was so adamant about it, is that they were never children’s books. They have become children’s books, but Kay never agreed that they were. It was sort of a joke in the beginning. There was a chain of bookstores called Doubleday on Fifth Avenue in New York, and Kay lived nearby at the Plaza. She used to go in and [see that the Eloise books] had been moved into the children’s section. She would march in and carry them to the front of the store and put them in the adult section. And then they’d just get moved back again.

It was the best thing, really, that happened to her because it was kind of a novelty adult book. It even says that it’s not a children’s book; it says that it’s a book for precocious adults in a banner across the top. She never wrote the books down to children. Of course, they look like children’s books and they were about someone who was getting away with something, so it appealed to kids, thank God.
That’s an interesting way to reconsider Eloise—as one of those adult books that look like picture books, but aren’t at all meant for the traditional picture-book readership. Certainly they weren’t created in the typical picture-book way, but that means nothing about the intended audience.

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