After all, she’s only six

Max and Calvin admire Eloise.

Max and Calvin admire Eloise.

There’s a six-year-old girl my boys can’t stop talking about. I felt the same way when I discovered her in my twenties.

Kay Thompson’s Eloise (illustrated by Hilary Knight) is a known wonder and delight. If you haven’t heard of the little girl who lives at The Plaza Hotel in New York City, for Lord’s sake go straight to your local bookstore or library.

Written in 1955, Eloise lives and wreaks havoc at The Plaza. She cohabitates with her British Nanny, dog Weenie, turtle Skipperdee, and a visiting pigeon.

Max and Calvin can’t get over her freedom and antics. “Eloise sits on top of the car,” they tell me, jealous and concerned. She runs around The Plaza by herself. “Why is she all alone?” You never see her absent mother who “sometimes sends for her.” “Where are her parents? Why doesn’t Nanny ever give her back?” they ask. That’s a hard one to explain.

"They will be glad to get home."

“They’ll be glad when they get home.”

After reading the first Eloise book, we checked out Eloise in Moscow, Eloise in Paris, Eloise at Christmastime, and Eloise Takes a Bawth. Talk about hard to explain. Eloise in Moscow, written in 1959, depicts a lack of privacy, cold weather, and frowning locals.

“They’ll be glad when they get home, this place is really different,” Max gravely said.

I worry that Eloise Takes a Bawth may give them ideas. (Eloise floods The Plaza with her bawth.) The boys love this. I try to discourage them with my own cautionary tale of knocking over a diaper pail that leaked through the living room ceiling, making their Pop Pop (my Dad) go mad.

Oooo.. I absolutely love Eloise and I’m glad my boys do too.

Where to find the book and more info

You can find Eloise at most bookstores or public libraries.

Learn more on the official Eloise website.

Visit Hilary Knight’s website (He also illustrated Betty MacDonald’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books. I love Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.)

Hilary is the subject of a great documentary “It’s Me, Hilary” produced by Lena Dunham. (Dunham sports an Eloise tattoo.)

I have the good fortune of having my own Eloise. Calvin says, “Her name is like the book!” She wrote a guest blog post for me in March. I absolutely love my Eloise too!

California Love

Max and Calvin check out the cable car.

Max and Calvin check out the cable car.

Our first day in California, Max burst out singing Tupac Shakur’s California Love. “California, California…” (Disclaimer… he doesn’t know all the words.) People smiled at him on the street. He was expressing all of our excitement to be in the sunshine state of the wild wild west.

We traveled to California two weeks ago for a family wedding in Petaluma, north of San Francisco. We also spent a day in the city. Thanks to author Virginia Lee Burton, the boys were excited to ride the cable car.

I’ve always loved Burton’s classics The Little House and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. I’ve enjoyed discovering her other books with Max and Calvin. Her detailed illustrations appeal to the boys, especially Calvin who loves her drawings of traffic and transportation in Katy and the Big Snow and Maybelle the Cable Car.


Up and down Maybelle went.

Maybelle is a San Francisco cable car. She and her sisters have served the city for many years. With the advent of buses and cars, the city fathers are considering retiring the cable car. Even Calvin, who is a bus fiend, feels for Maybelle. Fortunately, the good citizens of Tupac’s home state vote to keep Maybelle so they can get up their steep hills. “I like it when they vote yes,” says Max.

The boys had a great time on the cable car although Calvin said, “He wished he could have ridden a bus,” and Max was too busy telling some strangers, “When my mom was 5, my dad was 14!”

Smiles all around on the cable car.

Smiles all around on the cable car.

Where to find the book and other info

Burton’s books span the 30s to the early 60s. You can find her books at most bookstores and libraries. Here’s a link to her books on  Powell’s.

Not only did Burton write children’s books, she was a textile designer, painter, and sculptor.

There’s a movie about her life: Virginia Lee Burton: A Sense of Place. You can find more on this site about this talented woman’s life.

A mansion, a frat house, a new library

Calvin and Max at the new library.

Calvin and Max at the new library.

Our neighborhood boasts a historic mansion that was a fraternity house for many years. Friends from my youth probably remember the fire truck they had parked on the front lawn. As of last week, it’s now the new home of the Clifton branch of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. Parkview Mansion was the home of politician “Boss” Cox.

Our family missed the grand opening but we were lucky that we ran into Mr. Eric and got a personal tour. If you frequent the Clifton branch, you know that Mr. Eric (Davis) is the incredible children’s librarian. He holds a mean story hour complete with a guitar and songs.

“It’s beautiful inside,” said Calvin. And that it is. The renovated mansion has original fireplaces, tile, floors, and a gorgeous stained-glass window. There are reading rooms, study areas, a teen section, rooms you can reserve for meetings, and an incredible front porch with tables and chairs.

Mr. Eric gives the boys the grand tour.

Mr. Eric gives the boys the grand tour.

Calvin adds that he, “likes the books and the drinking fountain. The elevator smells funny.”

My friend Sarah Hoctor grew up a couple houses down from the mansion (in a charming haunted house) and she says that tunnels connected the houses on that street during prohibition.

George “Boss” Cox had Hannaford & Sons build Parkview Manor in 1895. According to the library’s site, “Cox lived in Parkview Manor and entertained lavishly there from 1895 until his death from pneumonia at the age of 63 in 1916. His wife maintained the home until she died in 1938. It was bequeathed to the Union Bethel and became a home for girls until 1947 when it was purchased by Pi Kappa Alpha for a fraternity house. In 2007 Michael L. Dever purchased the property.”

A reading room in the Clifton branch library.

A reading room in the Clifton branch library.

Dever donated the property to the library.

If you live in Cincinnati or plan to visit, the new Clifton branch is well worth a look!

More information about Parkview Manor and the Clifton branch.

The library is located at the corner of Brookline and Jefferson Ave., across from Burnett Woods in the Clifton neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio.

See before pictures on the library’s Flickr feed.

Read more about the building’s history. Read and see photos of the grand opening.

Here’s another great article about the mansion’s past along with rumors of ghosts.

Visit George Cox’s Wikipedia page.

Watch a video featuring Mr. Eric.