Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Les Petites Filles

Eloise and Skipperdee having a stare down.
Last week when I wrote the post about Bringing Up Bébé, I thought I would illustrate it with Madeline and Eloise until I realized that although they had similar "lifestyles," both wore shiny black patent Mary Janes and neither one had a doting maman. (As their stories reveal, quite the contrary.) But since the entire point of the bringing up bébé story was about mothering techniques it was obvious these little girls didn't fit the profile.

Eloise, who as you know, lived at the Plaza Hotel in New York, rarely saw her globetrotting socialite mother. She shared a luxurious suite with her aging "rawther British" Nanny who was sweet, dotty and in over her head. Thus Eloise was in a way completely on her own in a world of grown-ups which allowed her to create her very elastic boundaries and inventive amusements.

Madeline had more structure in her life, but no less spunk as she coped with the strict routine of life in a Catholic boarding school. While Eloise had Nanny, Madeline had Miss Clavel and although she may have been confronted with more rules and regulations, she too found ways to circumvent the establishment and forge her highly independent expressions of rebellion and fun.

Madeline with Genevieve.
Eloise with Weenie.
Both had dogs as companions Eloise's Weenie, and Madeline's Genevieve. Being housed under more swank circumstances and of course her mother knew the manager, Eloise also had a raisin eating turtle named Skipperdee. Nanny wasn't always a laugh a minute after all. She often chided Eloise by telling her "being bored is not allowed." Clearly Eloise took her at her word.

I'm not really "going anyplace" with these musings (ramblings), except to say both had an irrepressible joie de vivre, a remarkable resilience, staunch independence and a soupçon of healthy naughtiness that made them  irresistible. It also made them perfect role models for generations of little girls.

I'm sure, had they been more than delightful children's story characters, Madeline and Eloise would have been fast friends. Doubtless Eloise had French lessons -- after all we know she visited Paris -- between sessions of harassing room service at the Plaza and Madeline was certainly required to learn English from the minute she was sent off to school.

I warned you I was rambling but my fuzzy point is that I think from what I've observed in France, children possess that same delicious cocktail of independence, resilience, insouciance and good manners that Eloise and Madeline demonstrated in their captivating caprices and adventures.

Isn't it interesting that both authors, Ludwig Bemelman for Madeline and Kay Thompson for Eloise chose to create stories with only fleeting glimpses of parents?

"And that's all there is -- there isn't anymore." *

*I'm borrowing Madeline's famous quote, because as you can imagine it's quite difficult to conclude a story that makes little sense.


Anonymous said...

My mother loved Eloise more than I, I think. Probably because she spent her young adult life in NYC and was familiar with the Plaza. But the artwork alone makes me giggle as did this post. (Especially that last line!) Thanks Tish, for another wonderful one and for the memories.

caryl said...

Oh Tish, even when you think your story makes
little sense, your writing is so beautiful it doesn't
matter. ( Plus who doesn't want to revisit Eloise
and Madelaine.) But I wonder is this the beginning
of book-brain for you? It's similar to baby brain
where the subject takes a over greater and greeter
share of your mind.

BigLittleWolf said...

There has indeed been so much hoopla over Bringing Up Bébé, but if it makes us think (we, on this side of the Atlantic), then maybe that's a good thing...

I also grew up with Eloise and Madeline... delicious stuff. My boys loved Madeline as well.

I would add Harriet the Spy (the book, of course), and that made for a delicious threesome of girl-heroes and yes, plenty of imagination mixed with proper manners.

Cheryl said...

I have been without a computer for awhile and am busy catching up, composing something in my head to post, and here you are. Two of my favorite picture books. And now they are Alexandra's. These precious girls spoke to me when I was young... doing things I would never dare!!!!
Thank you for this. I absolutely love love love it!

Debra Green said...

I heartily agree that these girls are role models, not only for other little girls but for us women too! Too often we get ground down with adult responsibilities and forget to just have joy and exploration and sheer naughtiness in our lives.
I am now off to walk my dog and jump in puddles!

Karena said...

So sweet ( not that the girls always were at times). What I love about Madelaine and Eloise both had such spirit and Joy de Vivre!

Art by Karena

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

J'adore Madelaine.
Eloise is a new character that I must read now after your lovely introduction.
How's the book coming along?

kathy peck said...

Grew up with both, and still love them. I never walk by the Plaza Hotel that I don't think of Eloise.

Diane said...

Madeline is my oldest daughter's namesake! I had to name her after the little girl who lived in Paris! She is off at University, but her room is still filled with Madeline dolls (13) and books. Thanks, I'll be smiling all day!!

Liz said...

I am going to disagree with all about Eloise. My daughter was given both the original and Eloise in Paris (of course!). I refuse to read them to her, as I think Eloise's behaviour is dreadful. If my daughter acted the way Eloise does, she would be in trouble (huge trouble!). That is a bebe who needs someone to bring her up!!

Madeleine, however, we adore. I think we have a complete selection.

And, of course, Fancy Nancy. It is hysterical to hear my 3-year old describe things as "posh" and continue on with "posh is a fancy way to say fancy", and then to follow it with "ooh la la". So adorable.

Wally B said...

and all I had was Dennis the Menace. "nuff said.

Debora said...

I saw the Eloise Christmas movie for the first time last December and I was just entranced with her. Delightful!

Hana said...

I too think that Eloise's behavior was completely unacceptable. My daughter loves her but if I knew a child like that, it would be a complete nuisance. Common - throwing water in a mail shoot?
As to Bringing up Bebe - there is probably a lot of good stuff for American parents. I grew up in Europe and have kids in US so I kind of compromise. They are more confident and free thinking than I was but they have more manners than many of their friends. I think one think we should realize is that American kids are brought up for American society and French kids for French society. Different values don't necessarily make one society worse than other.

Carol said...

My two daughters loved Madeline when they were growing up.. Me too as l read to them..

Rubiatonta said...

I loved Madeline as a little person, and Harriet the Spy as a slightly larger person. (I don't remember reading Eloise, though I may have done.) As an adult, I love Olivia (the pig), who tends to get into trouble, because she is clever, curious, and opinionated. (My mother tells me that I *am* Olivia.)

The appeal of a clever, naughty girl character, in my opinion, is that she counter-acts the many, many messages that females get about being quiet, pretty, nice, appropriate, etc., from very early in life.

What's wrong with being occasionally naughty, kind, AND polite? In this Subversive Auntie's view, they aren't mutually exclusive.

la fourchette said...

Love the musings! I'm a Madeleine girl, myself...since age 5! I'm quite certain those mysterious images through a shadowy Paris led me here...another happy ending, as a matter of fact.

Rebecca said...

I just purchased a Weekly Reader edition of Madeleine in London. I can't resist! I thoroughly enjoyed your "review" and sassy observations on two of my very favorite literary characters.

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